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Forecasting natural hazards, performance of scientists, ethics, and the need for transparency
- Guzzetti, Fausto
- Toxicological and environmental chemistry 2016 v.98 no.9 pp. 1043-1059
- chemistry, decision making, drought, earthquakes, ethics, floods, humans, hurricanes, landslides, models, politics, scientists, society, teams, uncertainty
- Landslides are one of several natural hazards. As other natural hazards, landslides are difficult to predict, and their forecasts are uncertain. The uncertainty depends on the poor understanding of the phenomena that control the slope failures, and on the inherent complexity and chaotic nature of the landslides. This is similar to other natural hazards, including hurricanes, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, floods, and droughts. Due to the severe impact of landslides on the population, the environment, and the economy, forecasting landslides is of scientific interest and of societal relevance, and scientists attempting to forecast landslides face known and new problems intrinsic to the multifaceted interactions between science, decision-making, and the society. The problems include deciding on the authority and reliability of individual scientists and groups of scientists, and evaluating the performances of individual scientists, research teams, and their institutions. Related problems lay in the increasing subordination of research scientists to politics and decision-makers, and in the conceptual and operational models currently used to organize and pay for research, based on apparently objective criteria and metrics, considering science as any other human endeavor, and favoring science that produces results of direct and immediate application. The paper argues that the consequences of these problems have not been considered fully.