Dr. Mooney: Scientists’ efforts suffer from lack of collaboration
Published: Friday, September 13, 2013
Updated: Friday, September 13, 2013 00:09
This past Thursday, September 8, Harold Mooney, Professor of Biology, Emeritus and Senior Fellow at Stanford University gave a lecture at UConn’s Thomas J. Dodd Research Center. Dr. Mooney’s lecture, “Bridging the gap between the natural and social sciences for addressing our common future in a changing world,” is part of an ongoing series known as the Edwin Way Teale Lecture Series and the first of these lectures to be given this year. The series, brought to UConn as a result of a joint effort by various departments, is meant to discuss and raise awareness among viewers about nature and different environmental issues. Lectures are free, open to the public and held at 4 p.m. in the Research Center’s Konover Auditorium.
Teale, for whom the lecture series is named, was an American naturalist and writer who made critical observations about the state of the natural word. Dr. Harold Mooney is an ecologist whose focus is on environmental change and the effects of global issues and policies on it.
Dr. Mooney started by addressing the “well known” issues facing the natural world today: climate disruption, species extinction, pollution, and extreme population growth. He talked his audience through efforts by several groups of scientists in the 1950s and 1980s to quantify and address the effects of these issues on the planet. Dr. Mooney cited the shortcomings of these groups as their inability to work in collaboration with social scientists, such as economists and policy makers, to create an effective program to combat this negative environmental change. The major causes of this inability to collaborate were “a lack of mutual respect between professionals in both fields and a lack of acceptance of the value of alternative knowledge systems,” said Dr. Mooney. He then proposed a new approach to be taken by the Future Earth project—a group that will focus on both short-term and long-term solutions to environmental problems by combining the brain-power of both researchers in the “hard” sciences and the social sciences. This new approach, Dr. Mooney asserted, must involve more interdisciplinary and international cooperation.
A question session was offered after the lecture, during which the audience could ask Dr. Mooney questions on the topic. Viewers, who included undergraduate and graduate students as well as faculty and guests to Uconn, asked a variety of questions about topics ranging from bridging the international scene with local grassroots movements, population control and the over-consumption of meat. Anna Sjodin, a graduate student in the school of ecology and evolutionary biology who attended the lecture, said that she thought Dr. Mooney “addressed some vulnerable issues that people in both the hard sciences and the social sciences still shy away from openly discussing today, and” did a good job incorporating the “international perspective thatwe don’t all get on a day to day basis” in these fields.
The next lecture in this series is scheduled for Oct. 3 and will also be addressing the natural and social sciences, this time co-sponsored by the Humanities Institute.