Dr. Gunilla Öberg is inspired by her experience as a leader of complex interdisciplinary research and education and her in-depth knowledge of chlorine biogeochemistry, environment and sustainability.
My research deals with science for policy and the notion of expertise in complex areas where science is uncertain and disputed. I am particularly looking for students who are interested in the silent exclusion of knowledge that clashes with dominant science, including the exclusion of Indigenous interests and ways of knowing. At present, our projects deal with chemicals of concern and microplastics. Alternatively, incoming students are interested in pursuing studies tied to teaching and learning science literacy. Questions in focus are:
What kind of knowledge is needed, used and trusted? How does the knowledge used impact perceived solutions? How might we help decision-makers and the public ‘unpack’ assumptions, values and preferences that are embedded in such knowledge? What might a more equitable chemicals management system look like?
How can science for policy be more transparent and useable?
Students who hope to work with me should share my enthusiasm for an interdisciplinary approach to improving expert-based policy advice. I welcome applicants from a variety of academic backgrounds — law, indigenous studies, toxicology and chemistry, for example — who want to join my team of scholars challenging the silent winnowing process that leads to the exclusion of evidence that clashes with dominant science, such as Indigenous knowledge. Indigenous students are warmly encouraged to join our team, not least our most recent project on the weaving of Indigenous knowledge with existing practices.
The Egesta Lab is specifically targeting expert disagreements surrounding how to evaluate the potential harm posed by micropollutants and microplastics. Determining which kind of information and types of harm should be used when evaluating such substances remains a contested area. Finding ways to move forward when there is a struggle for epistemic authority is crucial. Working in close collaboration with Indigenous experts as well as experts in regulatory agencies, I invite students who can help strengthen the ability to handle a diversity of perspectives. In fact, the inclusion of differing perspectives can make decision-making more robust, actionable, rigorous, and democratic, not least because of an increased ability to understand and mitigate risks.
Click here for a full description of the qualifications Dr. Öberg is looking for.
Öberg’s projects in this field focus on the production and use of scientific knowledge for environmental decision making. She has led projects on acidification, critical loads, and climate change. Her most recent projects deal with chemicals management and sustainable management of sewage in growing urban areas.
Her group, the Egesta Lab is, for example, exploring how different groups of scientists perceive and assess the risk posed by endocrine-disruptors (EDs). The global scientific community is deeply divided about ED-risk and the lack of scientific consensus is impeding the development of regulatory frameworks for EDs in many jurisdictions. The Egesta lab is interested in better characterizing the debate within the scientific community and to find ways to unpack and communicate the divergent perspectives held by scientists on each side of the controversy.
Lab members are also examining the relationship between the values held by scientific experts, their disciplinary identities and the evidence-based policies they recommend and exploring how embracing the diversity of values among experts can be used to strengthen the democratic process, focusing on controversies surrounding wastewater and chemicals management.
Robin Harder, Rosanne Wielemaker, Tove A. Larsen, Grietje Zeeman and Gunilla Öberg 2019 Recycling nutrients contained in human excreta to agriculture: Pathways, processes, and products. Critical Reviews in Environmental Science and Technology 49(8): 695-743
Bronwyn McIlroy, Annegaaike Leopold and Gunilla Öberg 2021 The manufacturing of consensus: a struggle for epistemic authority in chemical risk evaluation. Environmental Science and Policy Volume 122, August 2021, Pages 25-34
Bronwyn McIlroy-Young, Annegaaike Leopold, Gunilla Öberg 2021 Science, Consensus and Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals: Re-thinking Disagreement in Expert Deliberations Integrated Environmental Assessment and Management DOI: 10.1002/ieam.4385
Marco Vazquez, Bronwyn McIlroy-Young, Amanda Giang, Daniel Steel, Gunilla Öberg 2021 Exploring scientists’ values by analyzing how they frame nature and uncertainty. Risk Analysis (vol: p) DOI: 10.1111/risa.13701
Gunilla Öberg, Kevin Elliot and Annegaaike Leopold 2019 Science is Political But should Not be Partisan. Integrated Environmental Assessment and Management 16: 6-7.