Uncertainty as a Driving Force for Geoscientific Development

in Nature and Culture
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  • 1 Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research—UFZ Leipzig hendrik.paasche@ufz.de
  • 2 Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences paasche@cbs.mpg.de
  • 3 University of Tübingen peter.dietrich@ufz.de
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Abstract

Geoscientists invest significant effort to cope with uncertainty in Earth system observation and modeling. While general discussions exist about uncertainty and risk communication, judgment and decision-making, and science communication with regard to Earth sciences, in this article, we tackle uncertainty from the perspective of Earth science practitioners. We argue different scientific methodologies must be used to recognize all types of uncertainty inherent to a scientific finding. Following a discovery science methodology results in greater potential for the quantification of uncertainty associated to scientific findings than staying inside hypothesis-driven science methodology, as is common practice. Enabling improved uncertainty quantification could relax debates about risk communication and decision-making since it reduces the room for personality traits when communicating scientific findings.

Contributor Notes

Hendrik Paasche received a diploma (2000) in geophysics from Leipzig University, Germany, and a PhD (2006) in geophysics from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) Zurich, Switzerland. He joined the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research—UFZ Leipzig as senior researcher in 2012. Since 2019, he has been Privatdozent in geophysics at the University of Potsdam, Germany. His research interests are centered on applied near-surface geophysics, inverse modeling, experimental design, and data integration. Email: hendrik.paasche@ufz.de

Katja Paasche received an MA (2000) in history of art, cultural sciences, and journalism from the University of Leipzig, Germany. She acquired a lot of practical experiences working for publishing houses, foundations, and educational institutions. She joined the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences in Leipzig in 2013 as a public relations officer. Her interests are directed toward questions of science communication, framing, and the dynamics of knowledge development. Email: paasche@cbs.mpg.de

Peter Dietrich is Professor of Environmental and Engineering Geophysics at the University of Tübingen. His research interests are related to the development and evaluation of applied methods, technologies, and strategies for the observation and exploration of the natural environment focusing on soil, water, and air, as well as their interactions. The research and developments are directed to the solution of environmental problems in the areas of water resources management, management of contaminated sites, and biodiversity. Under his lead, the Department of Monitoring and Exploration Technologies was established in 2005 in Leipzig at the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research. Email: peter.dietrich@ufz.de

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