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PIK’s junior scientists address uncertainties

05/10/2013 - „Nothing is as uncertain as the future“ – about 100 aspiring junior scientists from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research discussed uncertainties in climate impact research at their annual „PhD Day“ this week. At the fourth meeting of that kind, the scientists talked about various aspects of uncertainties in their research in „World Café“ style, switching discussion groups and topics regularly to exchange views with each other. Tony Patt from the International Institute for Applied System Analysis (IIASA) gave a keynote on uncertainty and the science/policy interface.
PIK’s junior scientists address uncertainties

PhDs discussed different questions regarding uncertainties across research domains. (Photo: PIK)

From the data itself to models not being able to simulate every detail of reality to our inability to look into the future – climate impact research always works with assumptions based on the best possible information regarding a special scenario, and results in projections - not predictions - of a possible future. As we cannot really know these futures before they actually happen, these projections will always be connected to uncertainties. This is a very self-evident part or research, yet it can be challenging to address uncertainties and put them into context.

The postgraduates talked about a spectrum of uncertainties linked to Earth system models, impact or economic models. They also discussed methods and tools for uncertainty and sensitivity analysis and how to communicate uncertainties not only to scientists but to lay people. Tony Patt from IIASA gave a talk about „Uncertainty and the limits of science’s value to policy“, before the day concluded with a get together for networking.

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