Advertisement

Springer Nature is making SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19 research free. View research | View latest news | Sign up for updates

Social studies of volcanology: knowledge generation and expert advice on active volcanoes

Abstract

This paper examines the philosophy and evolution of volcanological science in recent years, particularly in relation to the growth of volcanic hazard and risk science. It uses the lens of Science and Technology Studies to examine the ways in which knowledge generation is controlled and directed by social forces, particularly during eruptions, which constitute landmarks in the development of new technologies and models. It also presents data from a survey of volcanologists carried out during late 2008 and early 2009. These data concern the felt purpose of the science according to the volcanologists who participated and their impressions of the most important eruptions in historical time. It demonstrates that volcanologists are motivated both by the academic science environment and by a social concern for managing the impact of volcanic hazards on populations. Also discussed are the eruptions that have most influenced the discipline and the role of scientists in policymaking on active volcanoes. Expertise in volcanology can become the primary driver of public policy very suddenly when a volcano erupts, placing immense pressure on volcanologists. In response, the epistemological foundations of volcanology are on the move, with an increasing volume of research into risk assessment and management. This requires new, integrated methodologies for knowledge collection that transcend scientific disciplinary boundaries.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

Fig. 1

References

  1. Aspinall, W. P. (1998). Expert judgement and the Montserrat volcano eruption. In: Mosleh, A. Bari, R. A. (eds) Proceedings of the 4th International Conference on Probabilistic Safety Assessment and Management PSAM4, New York City, 13–18 September 1998. pp. 2113–2118

  2. Aspinall WP (2006) Structured elicitation of expert judgement for probabilistic hazard and risk assessment in volcanic eruptions. In: SCHM Mader, C Connor, L Connor (eds) Statistics in volcanology, 1. Geological Society, London. pp. 15–30

  3. Aspinall WP (2010) A route to more tractable expert advice. Nature 463:294–295

  4. Aspinall W, Sparks RSJ (2004) Volcanology and the law. IAVCEI News 1:4

  5. Aspinall WP, Loughlin SC, Michael FV, Miller AD, Norton GE, Rowley KC, Sparks RSJ, Young SR (2002) The Montserrat Volcano Observatory: its evolution, organization, role and activities. Geol Soc Lond Mem 21(1):71–91

  6. Aspinall WP, Woo G, Voight B, Baxter PJ (2003) Evidence-based volcanology: application to eruption crises. J Volcanol Geotherm Res 128:273–285

  7. Balsiger PW (2004) Supradisciplinary research practices: history, objectives and rationale. Futures 36(4):407–421

  8. Barberi F, Davis MS, Isaia R, Nave R, Ricci T (2008) Volcanic risk perception in the Vesuvius population. J Volcanol Geotherm Res 172(3–4):244

  9. Baxter PJ, Aspinall WP, Neri A, Zuccaro G, Spence R, Cioni R, Woo G (2008) Emergency planning and mitigation at Vesuvius: a new evidence-based approach. J Volcanol Geotherm Res 178(3):454

  10. Beck U (1992) Risk society: towards a new modernity. Sage, New Delhi (German original, 1986)

  11. Bostok D (1978) Editorial: a deontological code for volcanologists? J Volcanol Geotherm Res 4(1–2):1

  12. Chester DK, Duncan AM, Dibben CJL (2008) The importance of religion in shaping volcanic risk perception in Italy, with special reference to Vesuvius and Etna. J Volcanol Geotherm Res 172(3–4):216–228

  13. Clay EB, Barrow C, Benson C, Dempster J, Kokelaar BP, Pillai N, Seaman J (1999) An evaluation of HMG’s response to the Montserrat volcanic emergency. Department for International Development, London

  14. Collins H (2004a) Gravity’s shadow: the search for gravitational waves. University of Chicago Press, Chicago

  15. Collins H (2004b) Interactional expertise as a third kind of knowledge. Phenomenol Cogn Sci 3(2):125–143

  16. Collins H, Evans R (2007) Rethinking expertise. University of Chicago Press, Chicago

  17. De la Cruz-Reyna S, Tilling RI (2008) Scientific and public responses to the ongoing volcanic crisis at Popocatépetl Volcano, Mexico: importance of an effective hazards-warning system. J Volcanol Geotherm Res 170(1–2):121–134

  18. De Marchi B (2003) Public participation and risk governance. Sci Public Policy 30(3):171–176

  19. Dibben CJL (2008) Leaving the city for the suburbs—the dominance of ‘ordinary’ decision making over volcanic risk perception in the production of volcanic risk on Mt Etna, Sicily. J Volcanol Geotherm Res 172(3–4):288

  20. Dominey-Howes D, Minos-Minopoulos D (2004) Perceptions of hazard and risk on Santorini. J Volcanol Geotherm Res 137:285–310

  21. Donovan A, Oppenheimer C, Bravo M (2011) Rationalising a crisis through literature: Montserratian verse and the descriptive reconstruction of an island. J Volcanol Geotherm Res 203(3–4):87–101

  22. Druitt TH, Kokelaar BP (eds) (2002) The eruption of the Soufriere Hills Volcano, Montserrat, from 1995 to 1999. Geological Society of London, London

  23. Evans R, Plows A (2007) Listening without prejudice? Re-discovering the value of the disinterested citizen. Soc Stud Sci 37:827–853

  24. Fergus HA (2003) Volcano verses. Peepal Tree, Leeds

  25. Field A (2000) Discovering statistics using SPSS. Sage, London

  26. Fischer F (2010) Democracy and expertise: reorienting policy inquiry. Oxford University Press, Oxford

  27. Fiske R (1984) Volcanologists, journalists and the concerned local public: a tale of two crises in the Eastern Caribbean. Explosive volcanism: inception, evolution and hazards. National Academy Press, Washington

  28. Foucault M (1968) The archaeology of knowledge. Routledge, Abingdon

  29. Foucault M (1980) Power/Knowledge: selected interviews and other writings, 1972–1977. Pantheon, New York

  30. Foucault M (1982) The subject and power. Crit Inq 8(4):777–795

  31. Galle B, Johansson M, Rivera C, Zhang Y, Kihlman M, Kern C, Lehmann T, Platt U, Arellano S, Hidalgo S (2010) Network for Observation of Volcanic and Atmospheric Change (NOVAC); a global network for volcanic gas monitoring: network layout and instrument description. J Geophys Res 115(D5):D05304

  32. Gibbons M, Limoges C, Nowotny H, Schwartzman S, Scott P, Trow M (1994) The new production of knowledge: the dynamics of science and research in contemporary societies. Sage, London

  33. Golinski J (1992) Science as public culture: chemistry and enlightenment in Britain, 1760–1820. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge

  34. Gregg CE, Houghton BF, Johnston DM, Paton D, Swanson DA (2004) The perception of volcanic risk in Kona communities from Mauna Loa and Hualalai volcanoes, Hawaii. J Volcanol Geotherm Res 130:179–196

  35. Hacking I (1999) The social construction of what? Harvard University Press, Cambridge

  36. Haynes K (2005) Exploring the communication of risk during a volcanic crisis: a case study of Montserrat, West Indies. Unpublished Ph.D. thesis, University of East Anglia

  37. Haynes K, Barclay J, Pidgeon N (2007) The issue of trust and its influence on risk communication during a volcanic crisis. Bull Volcanol 70(5):605–621

  38. Horlick-Jones T, Sime J (2004) Living on the border: knowledge, risk and transdisciplinarity. Futures 36(4):441

  39. IAVCEI Subcommittee for Crisis Protocols (1999) Professional conduct of scientists during volcanic crises. Bull Volcanol 60:323–334, comment and reply in Bull Volcanol 62: 62–64

  40. Irwin A (2008) In: Hackett EJ, Amsterdamska O, Lynch M, Wajcman J (eds) STS perspectives on scientific governance. The Handbook of Science and Technology Studies, 3rd edn. MIT Press, Cambridge, pp 583–608

  41. Irwin A, Wynne B (eds) (1996) Misunderstanding science? The public reconstruction of science and technology. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge

  42. Jasanoff S (1990) The Fifth Branch: science advisors as policymakers. Harvard University Press, Cambridge

  43. Jasanoff S (1996) Beyond epistemology: relativism and engagement in the politics of science. Soc Stud Sci 26(2):393–418

  44. Jasanoff S (2003) (No?) Accounting for expertise. Sci Public Policy 30(3):157–162

  45. Jasanoff S (ed) (2004) States of knowledge: the co-production of science and social order. Routledge, Abingdon

  46. Jasanoff S (2005) Designs on nature: science and democracy in Europe and the United States. Princeton University Press, Princeton

  47. Jasanoff S (2007) Technologies of humility. Nature 450:33

  48. Latour B (1987) Science in action: how to follow scientists and engineers through society. Harvard University Press, Cambridge

  49. Latour B (2004) Politics of nature: how to bring the sciences into democracy. Harvard University Press, Cambridge

  50. Latour B (2005) Reassembling the social: an introduction to Actor-Network Theory. Oxford University Press, Oxford

  51. Lawrence RJ, Després C (2004) Futures of transdisciplinarity. Futures 36(4):397

  52. Leach M, Scoones I (2004) In: Leach M, Scoones I, Wynne B (eds) Science and citizenship in a global context. Science and citizens: globalisation and the challenge of engagement. Zed Books, London

  53. Leach M, Scoones I, Wynne B (eds) (2004) Science and citizens: globalisation and the challenge of engagement. Zed Books, London

  54. Lynch M, Cole S (2005) Science and technology studies on trial: dilemmas of expertise. Soc Stud Sci 35:269–311

  55. Martello M (2004) Global change science and the Arctic citizen. Sci Public Policy 31(2):107–115

  56. Marzocchi W, Sandri L, Gasparini P, Newhall C, Boschi E (2004) Quantifying probabilities of volcanic events: the example of volcanic hazard at Mount Vesuvius. J Geophys Res 109:201

  57. Metzner-Szigeth A (2009) Contradictory approaches? On realism and constructivism in the social sciences research on risk, technology and the environment. Futures 41:156–170

  58. Morgan MG, Henrion M (1990) Uncertainty: a guide to dealing with uncertainty in quantitative risk and policy analysis. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge

  59. Neri A, Aspinall WP, Cioni R, Bertagnini A, Baxter PJ, Zuccaro G, Andronico D, Barsotti S, Cole PD, Esposti-Ongaro T, Hincks TK, Macedonio G, Papale P, Rosi M, Santacroce R, Woo G (2008) Developing an Event Tree for probabilistic hazard and risk assessment at Vesuvius. J Volcanol Geotherm Res 178(3):397

  60. Newhall C, Hoblitt RP (2002) Constructing event trees for volcanic crises. Bull Volcanol 64:3–20

  61. Newhall C, Punongbayan R (1996) In: Scarpa R, Tilling RI (eds) The narrow margin of successful volcanic-risk mitigation. Monitoring and mitigation of volcano hazards. Springer, New York, pp 807–832

  62. Nowotny H (2003) Dilemma of expertise: democratising expertise and socially robust knowledge. Sci Public Policy 30(3):151–156

  63. Nowotny H, Scott P, Gibbons M (2001) Re-thinking science: knowledge and the public in an age of uncertainty. Polity Press, Cambridge

  64. Oreskes N, Shrader-Frechette K, Belitz K (1994) Verification, validation, and confirmation of numerical models in the earth sciences. Science 263(5147):641–646

  65. Pattullo P (2000) Fire from the mountain: the tragedy of Montserrat and the betrayal of its people. Constable, London

  66. Pedynowski D (2003) Science(s) which, when and whose? Probing the metanarrative of scientific knowledge in the social construction of nature. Prog Hum Geogr 27:735–752

  67. Popper K (1963) Towards a rational theory of tradition Conjectures and refutations: the growth of scientific knowledge. Routledge, London (original lecture, 1949)

  68. Radder H (1998) The politics of STS. Soc Stud Sci 28(2):325–331

  69. Rayner S (2003) Democracy in the age of assessment: reflections on the roles of expertise and democracy in public-sector decision making. Sci Public Policy 30(3):163–170

  70. Renn O (2008) Risk governance. Earthscan, London

  71. Shapin S (1984) Pump and circumstance: Robert Boyle’s literary technology. Soc Stud Sci 14:481–520

  72. Shapin S (1995) Here and everywhere: sociology of scientific knowledge. Annu Rev Sociol 21:289–321

  73. Shapin S (1998) Placing the view from nowhere: historical and sociological problems in the location of science. Trans Inst Br Geogr 23(1):5

  74. Sparks RSJ (2003) Forecasting volcanic eruptions. Earth Planet Sci Lett 210:1–15

  75. Sparks RSJ, Aspinall W (2004) Volcanic activity: frontiers and challenges in forecasting, prediction and risk assessment. The state of the planet: frontiers and challenges in Geophysics. Geophysical Monograph 150; IUGG Volume 19

  76. Stirling A (2007) Risk, precaution and science: towards a more constructive policy debate. EMBO Rep 8(4):309–315

  77. Taleb NN (2007) The black swan: the impact of the highly improbable. Allen Lane, London

  78. Traweek S (1988) Beamtimes and lifetimes: the world of high-energy physicists. Harvard University Press, Harvard

  79. Turner S (2001) What is the problem with experts? Soc Stud Sci 31(1):123–149

  80. Webster A (2007) Crossing boundaries: social science in the policy room. Sci Tech Hum Values 32(4):458–478

  81. Weill C (2003) Expert and public consultation: can consultation of both experts and the public help developing public policy? Some aspects of the debate in France. Sci Public Policy 30(3):199–203

  82. Wynne B (1989) Sheepfarming after Chernobyl: a case study in communicating scientific information. Environment 31(2):33–39

  83. Wynne B (1992) Uncertainty and environmental learning: reconceiving science and policy in the preventive paradigm. Glob Environ Chang 2(2):111–127

  84. Wynne B (2007) Dazzled by the mirage of influence? STS-SSK in multivalent registers of relevance Science. Technol Hum Values 32(4):491–503

  85. Wynne B, Felt U, Callon M, Gonçalves M, Jasanoff S, Jepsen M, Joly P-B, Konopasek Z, May S, Neubauer C, Rip A, Siune K, Stirling A, Tallacchini M (2007) Taking European knowledge society seriously. Expert Group on Science and Governance, Brussels, European Commission D-G Research, Science Economy and Society Directorate

Download references

Acknowledgements

AD acknowledges a NERC-ESRC PhD studentship. The authors would like to thank Chris Newhall and Augusto Neri for very thorough and helpful reviews, which significantly improved the manuscript.

Author information

Correspondence to Amy Donovan.

Additional information

Editorial responsibility: H. Delgado Granados

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Donovan, A., Oppenheimer, C. & Bravo, M. Social studies of volcanology: knowledge generation and expert advice on active volcanoes. Bull Volcanol 74, 677–689 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00445-011-0547-z

Download citation

Keywords

  • Social science
  • Hazards
  • Risk
  • Expertise
  • Advice
  • Volcanology
  • Science Studies