Presidential roundtable discussion: How do we restore science to policy making?

Restoring science in the White House is the topic of the presidential roundtable discussion at that the Society for Risk Analysis’ (SRA) Virtual Annual Meeting, on Thursday, December 17 from 12:00 – 1:30 p.m. ET.  

The roundtable, “Where do we go now? Risk, science and policy post 2020 U.S. Presidential election,” features comments and discussion from several science-policy experts on how to rebuild U.S. government science agencies, especially those that protect human and environmental health, following the four years of the Trump administration. The discussion focuses on resetting the course of the Environmental Protection Agency by restoring the role of science in decision making and policy.

Panelists for the discussion include:

  • Joseph Arvai, Ph.D., director of the Wrigley Institute for Environmental Studies at the University of Southern California
  • Gretchen Goldman, Ph.D., research director for the Center for Science and Democracy at the Union of Concerned Scientists
  • Elizabeth Southerland, Ph.D., former director of science and technology at the U.S. EPA
  • Chris Zarba, former deputy director of the National Center for Environmental Research at the U.S. EPA

Advanced registration is required to attend the SRA Annual Meeting. Members of the press who are interested in attending this session should email Melanie,, to request a registration waiver.

Joe Árvai is the Dana and David Dornsife Professor of Psychology and the Director of the Wrigley Institute for Environmental Studies at the University of Southern California. His research focuses on improving people’s critical thinking and decision-making capabilities. He works primarily on contexts where people must confront tradeoffs across conflicting social, economic, and environmental objectives. His research also focuses on situations where people’s instinctive approach to judgment and decision-making is biased by unchecked emotions and motivated reasoning. He served as a member of the policy committee for environment and energy for President Barack Obama during his first run in 2008. He served in a similar capacity for President-elect Biden in 2020. He is a former member of the EPA’s Chartered Science Advisory Board, and the National Academy of Sciences Board on Environmental Change and Society. 

Gretchen Goldman is the research director for the Center for Science and Democracy at the Union of Concerned Scientists. For nearly a decade, Goldman has led research efforts at the nexus of science and policy on topics ranging from federal scientific integrity to fossil energy production, climate change, and environmental justice. Goldman has testified before Congress and currently serves on the 500 Women Scientists Leadership Board and the Air and Climate Public Advisory Committee for the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments. She currently serves as an expert on the Public Health Rulemaking of the California Geologic Energy Management Division (CalGEM) of the Department of Conservation and the UNESCO/AAAS Consultation Group on the US science ecosystem. Her words have appeared in Science, Nature, The New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN, BBC, NPR, and MarketPlace. She holds a Ph.D. and M.S. in environmental engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology, and a B.S. in atmospheric science from Cornell University.

Elizabeth Southerland has worked at the U.S. EPA for 33 years. She retired in August 2017 as the Director of the Office of Science and Technology in the EPA’s Office of Water. Since retirement she has been a member of the Environmental Protection Network, a national bipartisan organization of former EPA staff who have critiqued the Trump administration’s rollback of public health and environmental protections. Southerland has a Ph.D. in environmental science and engineering from Virginia Tech.

Christopher S. Zarba has a 38-year career serving as a scientist and manager at the Environmental Protection Agency. During his career, Zarba led a variety of science based efforts to support Agency programs and activities including leading teams to develop the science for cleaning up hazardous waste sites, identifying and designating ocean disposal sites and writing regulations to protect wetlands. Zarba served in a variety of management positions including Director of the EPA’s National Centre for Environmental Research, Chief of Staff for EPA’s research office and Director of the agency’s Science Advisory Board Staff Office. Currently, he is a member of the Chesapeake Bay Environmental Center and the Harry Hughes Center for Agro Ecology board of directors.


About SRA 
The Society for Risk Analysis is a multidisciplinary, interdisciplinary, scholarly, international society that provides an open forum for all those interested in risk analysis. SRA was established in 1980. Since 1981, it has continuously published Risk Analysis: An International Journal, the leading scholarly journal in the field. For more information, visit