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Science and Policy with Gretchen Goldman – Real Scientists

Science and Policy with Gretchen Goldman

The importance and significance of science, environmental issues and new technologies affects our lives and cultures more and more. Science and technology now play a significant role in policy – from privacy issues to climate change, vaccination to the genetic manipulation of human embryos. This week, we’re going to take a Gretchen Goldman (C)look at the science and science of policy with our next curator, environmental engineer, Gretchen Goldman. Gretchen Goldman/@GretchenTG, is a Lead Analyst at the  Union of Concerned Scientists. Gretchen trained meteorology at Cornell University, followed by a PhD in environmental engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology. Prior to her current position, Gretchen was a postdoctoral research fellow at the Georgia Institute of Technology, where she researched statistical modeling of urban air pollution for use in epidemiologic studies of acute human health effects. Her recent work has focused on corporate influence on climate science, federal scientists’ freedom of speech rights, and public right-to-know in science-based policies. Gretchen is interested in the intersection of science and policy, an area we should examine in depth as scientists. Her research has covered everything from media access to scientists to the politics of climate change, and she’s been cited in the Los Angeles TimesBoston GlobeBloomberg, CNN.com, to name just a few. As if she isn’t busy enough, Gretchen also currently serves as the vice-chair of the Air and Climate Public Advisory Committee for the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments. We asked Gretchen our usual six questions, and here she is in her own words


I was always curious about the reasons behind things. Science seemed to offer such great opportunities to better understand the world around me. I liked the natural world especially, so I decided to major in meteorology at Cornell University. The fact that the weather was always changing but that scientists were able to predict it intrigued me. In college, I got more interested in human’s impact on the world so I decided to pursue a PhD in environmental engineering so I could understand the how human systems interact with the natural world.


As a student and postdoc, I studied air pollution and its health impacts through statistical modeling of outdoor air pollutant exposure in urban settings. It was a fascinating scientific problem to figure out the best way to determine what health effects were caused by different air pollutants and how the lack of monitoring data limited our ability to understand relationships between air pollution and health. I also learned about how these linkages are used to make policy decisions about air pollution standards. The more I learned, the more I was attracted to working at that intersection between science and policy. Translating science into policy is a challenging but important need. That’s where the action is to me.MaunaLoa


Currently, I am a lead analyst at the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS). We do analysis and advocacy on a variety of science policy issues, from climate change to sustainable agriculture to nuclear power. As a scientist in the Center for Science and Democracy at UCS, my work focuses on how science is and isn’t used in policy making and how we can better insure that decision making is informed by science. I’ve worked on a range of topics including scientists’ freedom to speak, public access to scientific information, climate change, hydraulic fracturing, sugar and health policy, and more. It keeps me learning new things all the time.


We are all affected by the outcomes of science policy decisions–from the air we breathe to the food and water we eat and drink to the medicines we take.


When we make these decisions based on politics or special interests instead of on science, the public loses and we can have bad outcomes for everyone. This is why it is so important to have scientists and others helping to ensure that science is translated for the public and for decision makers. Only then can we get science-based decisions in our public policies.


I’m an avid cyclist. I got into biking after I had knee surgery complications and couldn’t run any more. I competed in road cycling in college and now use it for commuting. Cycling is great for transportation–gets you there faster and cheaper in a city, keeps you fit, and let’s you better explore the urban environment. I love it. I’ve also taken up sewing recently. It’s a great contrast to my more abstract science work to be able to create something physical.


I’m obsessed with getting my books signed by their author. As a result I’ve spent a lot of time pursuing my favorite authors to get my books signed. I have a pretty good collection going now.


Ideal Day Off: I’d want to explore a new place–walk new streets, try the local cuisine and learn from the local culture and history. There’s something so refreshing about being somewhere new and trying to learn from it.


Please welcome Gretchen Goldman to Real Scientists!

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