On Science and Intellectual Humility in Resource Management
On Science and Intellectual Humility in Resource Management

Recently, I authored a post for DeltaCurrents, the Center for California Water Resources Policy and Management's blog. The focus of the piece is on science and humility. It is a topic of broad importance in society though I focus on it in the resource management context, and, specifically, as it pertains to California's Bay-Delta.

For the past three decades, the federal and California governments and diverse stakeholders have looked to scientists to explain the causes of the long-term population declines in fish species native to California’s Bay-Delta in an effort to chart a course to conserve those species. Water agencies across the State have invested billions of dollars in data collection and scientific research with the hope of finding clear answers to vexing problems stemming from more than a century of large-scale environmental change to the Pacific Coast’s most expansive estuary. Armed with a sense of urgency, regulatory agencies have felt the compulsion to act. “Clean narratives” sometimes supplied by scientists, but more often created by the regulatory agencies themselves, have provided justifications for such actions. In the post, after describing the factors that contribute to a common push for clean narratives, I make the case for scientific honesty and intellectual humility, pointing to recommendations for integration of full disclosure and intellectual humility into the process of reporting on and publishing empirical research. 

DeltaCurrents offers science-based observations and opinion on pressing contemporary issues in resource management and conservation planning in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and adjacent upper San Francisco Estuary. 

  • Paul S. Weiland
    Partner

    Paul Weiland is chair of Nossaman’s Environment & Land Use Group. He focuses his practice on litigation, permitting, and compliance counseling. Paul’s clients include public agencies, publicly regulated utilities, private ...

Nossaman’s Endangered Species Law & Policy blog focuses on news, events, and policies affecting endangered species issues in California and throughout the United States. Topics include listing and critical habitat decisions, conservation and recovery planning, inter-agency consultation, and related developments in law, policy, and science. We also inform readers about regulatory and legislative developments, as well as key court decisions.

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