EDITORIAL

Science during crisis

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Science  05 Apr 2019:
Vol. 364, Issue 6435, pp. 5
DOI: 10.1126/science.aax5052

Summary

In April 1902, on the Caribbean island of Martinique, La Commission sur le Vulcan convened to make a fateful decision. Mt. Pelée was sending smoke aloft and spreading ash across the capital city of Saint-Pierre. Comprising physicians, pharmacists, and science teachers, the commission debated the danger of an eruption and the burden of evacuation, and judged the safety of the city's population to be “absolutely assured.” Weeks later, Mt. Pelée erupted and approximately 30,000 residents died within minutes, leaving only two survivors. Environmental crises require pivotal decisions, and such decisions need timely, credible scientific information and science-based advice. This requirement is the focus of a report released last month by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences*, calling attention to improvements in the operation and delivery of science during crises.

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