Researchers Explore the Role of Science in Informing Energy Development in the Western U.S.

Aug. 31, 2018
Andrea K. Gerlak presenting at the conference

Andrea K. Gerlak presenting at the conference.

Tanya Heikkila

Conflicts around energy development are becoming common place across the United States, especially in wake of hydraulic fracking. Dr. Andrea K. Gerlak (School of Geography and Development and Udall Center, University of Arizona) recently collaborated with colleagues Tanya Heikkila and Chris Weible, of the University of Colorado-Denver School of Public Affairs, in presenting research on the role of science and learning to change policy positions and ultimately, resolve conflict.

Their paper, titled “Does Science Change Belief in Contested Policy Environments,” was presented to a global audience at the European Consortium for Political Research (ECPR) annual conference in Hamburg, Germany, August 22-25, 2018.

The paper builds from research surveying policy actors involved in shale oil and gas policy in Colorado. The authors’ research confirms broader social science scholarship around how people often politicize science in the policy process to confirm and reinforce their belief systems.However, they also find that building trust in science, through both interactions with university scientists and experience researching, may help mitigate resistance to science as a vehicle to inform beliefs and policy positions.