Scaling Up

Speaker: Professor Paul Edwards # University of Michigan

4th Mar 2013

15:00 - 16:30

Seminar Room, Old Surgeons' Hall


Major Earth system models currently exceed 1 million lines of computer code — so complex that no individual now understands an entire model in detail. Efforts to extend them to cover even more aspects of the environment, as well as human activity and economics, will make them even more complex. At the same time, the generalized movement toward transparency is opening up the once-private world of climate modeling to a large range of outsiders with varying competence. This situation raises issues of organization, governance, and trust. Work organization among modeling groups is changing to reflect the complexity of the models, but traditional trust-based modes of evaluation remain significant and are unlikely to be completely displaced. This work-in-progress talk outlines the issues and some recent efforts to address them, such as the US National Science Foundation's EarthCube solicitation and the Earth System Commodity Governance project.  

Speaker Biography

Paul Edwards is Professor of Information and History at the University of Michigan. He writes and teaches about the history, politics, and culture of information infrastructures. Edwards is the author of A Vast Machine: Computer Models, Climate Data, and the Politics of Global Warming (MIT Press, 2010) and The Closed World: Computers and the Politics of Discourse in Cold War America (MIT Press, 1996), and co-editor of Changing the Atmosphere: Expert Knowledge and Environmental Governance (MIT Press, 2001), as well as numerous articles. in 2012-13, he is at Sciences Po, Paris, as a visiting professor. Edwards' current research concerns the social dynamics of monitoring, modeling, and memory in large scientific cyberinfrastructures, as well as further work on the history of meteorology and other large-scale information infrastructures.