Andrew A. Rosenberg is director of the Center for Science and Democracy at the Union of Concerned Scientists. He has more than 25 years of experience in government service and academic and non-profit leadership. He is the author of scores of peer-reviewed studies and reports on fisheries and ocean management and has published on the intersection between science and policy making.
Dr. Rosenberg came to UCS from Conservation International, where he served for two years as the organization’s senior vice president for science and knowledge. Previously, he served as the northeast regional administrator of the National Marine Fisheries Service at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, where he negotiated recovery plans for New England and mid-Atlantic fishery resources, endangered species protections and habitat conservation programs. He later became deputy director of the service.
Dr. Rosenberg is also the convening lead author of the oceans chapter of the U.S. Climate Impacts Advisory Panel. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences’ Ocean Studies Board and the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy. He is a professor of natural resources and the environment at the University of New Hampshire, where he previously served as dean of the College of Life Sciences and Agriculture.
Dr. Rosenberg received his Ph.D. in biology from Dalhousie University in Halifax, Canada and previously studied oceanography at Oregon State University and fisheries biology at the University of Massachusetts.
Andrew Rosenberg On Science, Democracy and Fracking
Interview with Andrew Rosenberg
I’m excited by the challenge of starting something new with the Center for Science and Democracy. It’s great to come to work and get to think: “How am I going to do that?” It helps for my work here, I think, that I have a varied resume and have had the chance to look at things from different vantage points. You know, I’ve served in government agencies as the lead regulator for fisheries in the Northeast but also worked for nonprofit organizations and in academia as a scientist. I know how hard people work in government, for instance, but I also know how good government can be at getting in its own way.
One really important thing I’ve learned from my experience is that what people say in the front of the room is often very different from what they say when you get the chance to engage with them in the back of the room. One of the things we need to do at the Center is to try to go beyond political posturing to talk about things that really matter to people and help them understand more about what scientists do and how the evidence they gather can further our shared understanding on key issues.
There is no question that U.S. politics are extremely polarized right now. You have a lot of people going for cheap applause lines, saying things like “government is out to get you.” Speeches are fine. At the Center, we hope to get a very broad spectrum of people—conservatives, progressives, moderates, faith leaders, and people in business—to all testify to the importance of scientific evidence as a touchstone for the tough decisions we need to make collectively. But we also know we’re not going to really change the debate by standing up and giving speeches. For that, we know the key is to be in dialogue, to engage in a two-way conversation with people about the role of science and the work scientists do.
At the Center, our conversations about issues start by asking: What does the scientific evidence say? But we need to talk with people not just about the fixed outcomes and results of science but also about how scientists do our jobs. I think this will be our best chance to show that science is not just another special interest as some might like to paint it. Sure, everybody can have different opinions about things. But we need new and powerful ways to explain that science puts strong evidence on the table and offers the valuable expertise we need to help us find the best paths forward.
Is our scientific evidence infallible? Of course not. But, when it comes to making key policy choices, we don’t have the luxury to wait to act until we’re absolutely sure about everything. The analogy I use is to a medical doctor. A doctor can’t sit there and let a patient die just because there might be some uncertainty about a diagnosis. Similarly, as a citizenry, we need to act based on the best available evidence and know-how we have. I think the Center for Science and Democracy has a very powerful message about this: about how we can and must use scientific and technical evidence as a touchstone for understanding what is happening and determining how best to use our resources to address the problems we face.