Gunilla Öberg

Professor, IRES
Professor, Center for the Study of the Sciences and the Humanities, University of Bergen

Contact Details

AERL Room 447
2202 Main Mall
The University of British Columbia
Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z4
Canada

Research Interests

Bio

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.

Her research deals with science for policy in complex areas where science is uncertain and disputed, presently focusing on chemical pollution and sustainable sewage management. The questions that drive her research 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?

Prospective Students/Colleagues

How can science for policy be more transparent and useable?

Students and postdocs who hope to work with Dr. Öberg should share her enthusiasm for an interdisciplinary approach to integrating scientific expertise and policy. She welcomes applicants from a variety of backgrounds — law, science studies, and political science, for example — who want to join her team in examining the decision making process of chemical regulation, a field in which scientific consensus is often not possible. Öberg’s team is specifically targeting the regulation of micropollutants that are increasingly being detected in drinking water, humans and the environment. How to determine healthy levels of such substances remains a contested area. It is crucial to find ways to move forward when there is a struggle for epistemic authority. Öberg invites colleagues 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.

Resources

IRES Website

Egesta Lab

Google Scholar

University of Bergen Website

Projects

Science for policy

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.

Courses

RES 500D Expertise under fire. Navigating the divide between scientific practice and science studies
SCIE 420 Sustainability for Community and the World
ENVR 200 Introduction to Environmental Science
MFN 990 Theory of Science (University in Bergen)

Featured Publications

BEST PAPER AWARD!

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.