Scientific advice – Crisis counsellors!

This article on the Nature News website discusses the pressures of scientific advisers to governments during crisis situations, such as the Icelandic volcano eruption of 2010, which sent Europe into chaos. It’s an interesting snapshot into what is happening behind the headlines and TV announcements we’re all bombarded with at the time.

The article gives a glimpse into what immediate actions such advisers must take during such frantic situations, and how they must input their knowledge to the government so that the correct actions can be taken. It’s a side of science we don’t always think about as we go through our academic lives, but governments around the world are always in need of experts who can quickly meet to decide on immediate responses to what could be catastrophic events.

Indeed, the article discusses the BP oil disaster in the US, and how a cautious team of scientists found it difficult to deal with, due to misinformation from the government and BP, and disagreement amongst experts. Scientists disagreed over the amount of oil leaking every day, leading to great delays in the leak being stopped.

It’s an interesting walk through our recent history of disaster management, and highlights how difficult it can be to efficiently coordinate governments and scientists in order to firstly fully understand the issue, and then to remedy it. It would seem that there’s still work to be done to allow this to go more smoothly in the future, and hopefully scientists and politicians alike can learn from the mistakes made in the past.

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