Major Conferences

Periodically, The Science & Environmental Policy Project sponsors or co-sponsors major conferences designed to bring together leading scientists, opinion-makers, business representatives, legislative staff, and concerned citizens for hard-hitting discussions of controversial environmental issues. Two of the largest conferences took place in Washington, D.C., and the summaries are available here. Other conferences and seminars presented jointly with other academic and scientific organizations are listed by title and date.

"Scientific Integrity in the Public Policy Process," cosponsored by The Science & Environmental Policy Project and George Mason University's International Institute, May 24-25, 1993, at The Madison Hotel, Washington, D.C. Attendees: 160
Dr. Michel Salomon (left), director of the International Centre for Scientific Ecology (Paris) and organizer of The Heidelberg Appeal, with Dr. John H. Moore, then-director of George Mason University's International Institute, now president of Grove City College, PA.

Basis for the Conference: From global warming and ozone depletion to biotechnology and food additives, our lives are increasingly affected by concerns over science-driven issues. But is the policymaking process to address these issues informed by objective evidence? In recent years, a handful of scientists appear to have made exaggerated claims in the health and environmental areas. Their forecasts of dire calamities have strained public credulity and antagonized many in the scientific community, who contend that government policies today are moved more by press release than by sound, scientific research. How serious is this problem? Are scientific issues being misrepresented? If so, why? How do media reports of scientific results affect the regulatory process? To what extent is journalism itself affected by activist scientists and others desiring to influence public opinion? How can we develop legislative and regulatory procedures to ensure that objective scientific information reaches policymakers? The conference program addressed these issues and others, including the rise of "activist experts," the impact of budgetary pressures, bias in the selection of expert witnesses on Capitol Hill, and the implications of the lack of science peer-review for legislation and regulation. Speakers examined current institutional standards and discussed strategies for safeguarding scientific integrity in the public policy process. For more information, see the SIPPP Summary. Also available is the luncheon address by Peter Huber, author of Galileo's Revenge.

"Problems and Strategies in the Scientific Management of Fisheries and Marine Mammals: From the Tragedy of the Commons to an Era of Sustainable Development" an international conference sponsored by The Science & Environmental Policy Project, April 12, 1994, at the Washington Court Hotel. Included a scientific workshop held on April 11, in cooperation with the University of Maryland's Department of Agriculture and Resource Economics. Attendees: 84
The Minke Whale
Length: up to 32 feet Weight: up to 30 tons
Population: 900,000 Range: Worldwide
Sources: Picture - Macmillan Illustrated Animal Encyclopedia
Data: International Whaling Commission

Basis for the Conference: Fisheries and other living marine resources are renewable, as long as exploitation does not exceed sustainable yield. The cultural and political obstacles to science-based management are formidable, but the alternative is the "tragedy of the commons." As a result of years of overexploitation, ocean fisheries are in crisis. Groundfish stocks off both the east and west coasts of North America are estimated to be as much as 90 percent depleted. Canada has declared a moratorium on cod fishing off Newfoundland, and the state of Washington has imposed a similar moratorium on salmon off its coast.

The Science & Environmental Policy Project began investigating marine resource management in June 1993, when the journal Science reported that Dr. Philip Hammond, a noted population biologist with the Sea Mammal Research Unit of the British Antarctic Survey, had resigned as chairman of the Scientific Committee of the International Whaling Commission. Hammond did so in protest against the Commission's decision, supported by the U.S. delegation, not to adopt the Revised Management Plan for whales, which the Committee had developed at the request of the IWC over a period of six years.

In 1993, within the context of a continuing IWC moratorium on whaling, Norway applied the Catch Limit Algorithm of the Revised Management Plan to the abundant Minke whale stocks in its own coastal waters, legally resuming sustainable commercial whaling. Under the terms of the Pelly Amendment (to the Fishermen's Protective Act of 1967), however, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Ron Brown certified that Norway's action "diminish[ed] the effectiveness of the conservation regime of the IWC." President Bill Clinton then issued a statement to Congress on October 4, 1993, saying that "Norway's action is serious enough to justify sanctions under the Pelly Amendment." But the president declined to impose sanctions at that time, asserting that the United States has "a strong commitment to science-based international solutions to global conservation problems."

The purpose of SEPP's conference was to explore the scientific basis of sustainable development of living marine resources, as well as the economic mechanisms to reduce overfishing, obstacles to such management, and international legal and trade implications of extra-territorial fisheries regulation. For details, see the PSMFMM Summary.

The Science & Environmental Policy Project, has also been a cosponsor of the following:

"Is the Concept of Linear Relationship Between Dose and Effect Still a Valid Model for Assessing Risk Related to Low Doses of Carcinogens?" an international scientific seminar organized by the International Centre for Scientific Ecology, and co-sponsored by The Science & Environmental Policy Project, Entreprises pour l'Environnement, and the Conseil National des Ingenieurs et Scientifiques de France. Held May 10, 1993, at the Hilton Hotel, Paris, France.

"Greenhouse Controversy and Ozone-Problem (Treibhaus Kontroverse und Ozon-Problem)," an international scientific symposium organized by the European Academy for Environmental Affairs, co-sponsored by SEPP. Held in Leipzig, Germany, November 9-10, 1995, under the sponsorship of the President of the State of Saxony.

This conference led to the issuing of the Leipzig Declaration, signed by nearly 100 climate scientists.

"Climate Changes - Causes and Consequences," co-hosted by the European Academy for Environmental Affairs, the European Academy for Science and the Arts, and The Science & Environmental Policy Project. Held in Bonn, Germany, November 10-11, 1997.