Posted by: COSI | March 20, 2009

What do we say?

In surveys we’ve conducted at COSI, matched by results from national and international surveys we’ve been part of, the environment is the number one topic the public expects us to help them understand. They feel it is urgent and important and we should help inform them of how they can personally have a positive impact. This sentiment is matched by the President’s prioritization of global climate change and clean energy for the National Science Foundation emphasis.

Sounds easy in principle for COSI to venture more down this path, like with our recent Polar Weekend in partnership with OSU’s Byrd Polar Institute and Miami University which I’ve already blogged about.

However, these activities are generating much discussion within COSI, as with our friends at other science centers, as to how do we position our science center in this area. Do we take a specific stand on issues of global climate change, which are controversial among parts of the public? Do we hurt our objectivity for encouraging public debate and understanding if COSI has already staked out a position? global-warming

Where does our authority come from to make judgments on complex science and societal issues?
So we had a lot of debate internally before Polar Weekend on what do we have team members say if asked or challenged about our global warming position. If we’re a science center, shouldn’t we be firm in taking a position that we feel is the most supported by the scientific community?

Can we help our guests and participants understand that the strength of science is the process of debate, analysis and introduction of new data as consensus is formed –and then sometimes reformulated as new data is brought forth. So we ended up taking the position that while we may have some strong personal opinions internally (in my case formed over a 30 year period engaged in the energy and environmental areas) we are better served helping guests know where the most significant scientific bodies weigh in. So on the issue of global warming, we arrived at the following:

“Please know COSI welcomes all people and we respect the diversity of opinion on this and other issues. The current consensus of the scientific research community including the National Academy of Sciences, American Meteorological Society, and American Association for the Advancement of Science is that global climate change is real and that human activity is the main contributor to increased greenhouse gases in our atmosphere.”

Here is additional information on Statements on Climate Change:

National Academy of Science

American Meteorological Society

American Association for the Advancement of Science

Do you think this is the responsible way for COSI to address controversial topics of public interest? As we help engage our community in more science and society issues, we will be faced with these types of issues more frequently. What is your suggestion on how we approach these?



  1. I think it is very harmful effect for our earth n i strictly noticed that we human beings are only responsible for plz stop the act of cutting trees right now if u want to survive further on this beautiful earth!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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