Predictions for 2018 From UC Davis

Confederate Statue
Statue of Robert E. Lee. A UC Davis professor predicts more Confederate monuments will come down in 2018. Getty Images.

The University of California, Davis, asked a collection of faculty and administrators what their predictions on important national and global issues might be for 2018. Here, in our third annual list of predictions for the new year, they offer their fears and dreams about the environment, “fake news,” the Supreme Court, immigration, food stamps, shopping, taxes and scores of other issues.

Climate and environment, national parks

Peter Moyle, distinguished professor emeritus, Department of Wildlife, Fish and Conservation Biology
  • The Delta: Native fishes continue to decline, but fish habitat restoration projects will be underway in 2018.
  • Putah Creek: Once again, the people of Winters will see salmon spawning from the downtown bridge.
  • The dream: California fishes will be given water rights in all streams, so they can be part of flow negotiations.
Jay Lund, director of Center for Watershed Sciences

UC Davis’ water expert was noncommittal: “This water year in California will be wet, or dry, or both in different parts of the state. We just don’t know where and how much yet, but we will know more by April.”

Joe Gaydos, science director of SeaDoc Society
  • We have not been doing a good job of taking care of our oceans, and I don’t expect this to shift dramatically in 2018. On the brighter side, people are becoming more and more aware of pressing ocean issues like fisheries declines, pollution and trash in our oceans, but not many are crying out loud enough for this to be a higher priority for us to do something.
  • Looking at predictions for increasing ocean temperatures and ocean acidification, I expect that in 2018 we will continue to see increasing numbers of marine wildlife disease outbreaks. I am optimistic that we will be paying attention and will investigate these and learn more about how disease affects marine wildlife populations.
  • Elected officials and natural resource managers are beginning to see how disease influences management, populations and recovery efforts, so I predict there will be more jobs available in the world of marine wildlife health.
Tessa Hill, professor, Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, and associate director of Coastal and Marine Sciences Institute

I think that people will begin to identify more ways in which climate change is impacting them on a personal level, and that may change the dialogue on how we move forward.

Austin Brown, executive director of the Policy Institute for Energy, the Environment and the Economy

I expect 2018 will be the year that we see “real” automated vehicles hit the streets — those with no operator in the vehicle itself. On climate, I think this will be the year that California shows the country and the world what a complete plan to get to climate neutrality looks like.

Gregory Patterson Downs, professor, Department of History (historic lands), College of Letters and Science

I expect the administration’s recent rollback of national monument designated protected lands will inspire a significant countermovement. Relatively moderate or conservative conservationists who took national parks for granted will organize more strongly and rebuild ties to existing if more liberal-leaning conservation societies. Perhaps in the long run this will even seem a turning point in the articulation of a broader vision for national parks and historical commemoration.

Health and science

Jonathan Eisen, professor, Genome Center, Department of Evolution and Ecology, and Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology

Microbes and antibiotic resistance: I predict that 2018 will be marked by major progress in the global fight against antibiotic resistance with 1) major global agreements on the reduction in antibiotic overuse and misuse and 2) significant developments in tools both to control dangerous microbes by directly targeting them (e.g., CRISPR and phage-based therapeutics) and to promote and introduce beneficial microbes that can counter dangerous ones without the need for antimicrobials being used (e.g., controlled fecal transplants, delivery of beneficial microbes to plant seeds).

Immigration, DACA

Kevin Johnson, dean and professor, School of Law
  • The Trump administration will continue to aggressively enforce the immigration laws and will seek to limit the number of legal immigrants coming to the United States. Still, roughly 11 million undocumented immigrants will continue to live and work in the United States. 
  • Congress will continue to debate appropriate relief for the former recipients of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, and recipients will continue to protest. Congress ultimately will provide a path to legalization for DACA recipients in a bill that also provides for greater border security. Congress will continue to debate more far-reaching immigration reform.

The Supreme Court

Kevin Johnson, dean and professor, School of Law
  • With Justice Gorsuch settling in, the Supreme Court will continue to move in a moderate to conservative direction. 
  • One of the justices, perhaps Justice Kennedy, Justice Ginsburg or Justice Breyer, will decide to retire, and the nation is enveloped by a controversy as President Trump nominates an arch-conservative. 


Floyd Feeney, international legal and communications studies, School of Law

The first half of the 1900s brought two world wars, serious threats to democracy, and millions of deaths. In the 70-plus years since, the world has seen many problems but no similar catastrophes. 2018 will bring huge challenges to the ability of three major contributors to the post-World War II renaissance (U.S., Britain, Germany) to continue to serve as important forces for peace and good.


Dennis Ventry, tax law specialist, School of Law

Here’s a prophecy you can count on: There is a zero percent chance that the tax bill Republicans have been recklessly racing to pass before the holiday recess will generate the economic growth projected by the White House. In fact, the bill is guaranteed to explode deficits beginning in 2018 and extending deep into the future. Bah! Humbug!

Safety-net programs

Marianne Page, professor of economics and director of the Center for Poverty Research, College of Letters and Science

Congress will continue its push towards the block granting of safety-net programs such as Medicaid and food stamps. Passage of the tax bill will put further pressure on the federal budget, with funding for these programs likely targets for reduction. As with recent changes to environmental policy, these cuts may well occur under the radar, with President Trump drawing media attention in other directions.

On ‘fake news’

MacKenzie Smith, university librarian, expert on digital libraries and scholarly communication

Widespread distrust of mainstream media and so-called “fake news” will put renewed focus on news sources and primary evidence. But big data analytics employed by alternative news channels will challenge our ability to understand information sources and trust them. Libraries will be increasingly important to combat these trends by training students in information literacy, while new technologies like Blockchain will begin to establish trustworthy ways to track news sources and research results.

History, Confederacy statues

Gregory Patterson Downs, professor, Department of History, College of Letters and Science

I think more Confederate monuments will come down, prompting further counterdemonstrations and political reprisals, as Southern states will continue to limit city and county power to decide for themselves. I would not be surprised if the fight moved to state houses where many ex-Confederate states celebrate their Confederate leaders.

I also expect that it will be harder to contain the debate to the Confederacy and that there will be increased protests against slave owners who died before the Civil War, especially Calhoun and Jefferson. I also expect the commemoration of figures responsible for mistreatment or worse of Native Americans will become a more central part of the debate, affecting memorials to Columbus, Serra, Sherman, and especially Andrew Jackson.

Fearless prediction: the president will continue to say and tweet baffling things on these and other issues.

Business, economy

Kimberly Elsbach, professor, Graduate School of Management, leadership and reputation management

Impacts of #MeToo movement: The outing of perpetrators of sexual misconduct and the #MeToo movement will affect the year ahead.

  • What came from women speaking out in 2017 will embolden more women to pursue and demonstrate leadership in the business and political arenas.
  • And in C-suites, the values of integrity and transparency will play greater roles not only in how wrongdoing is handled, but also in guiding overall business strategy. People at the top are going to have to deal with a new reality.
Hemant Bhargava, professor, Graduate School of Management, technology management and the information technology industry
  • Transformation in entertainment and media industries: The Walt Disney Company’s merger with 21st Century Fox is likely to go through; AT&T’s with Time Warner ought not to, given the recent slaughter of net neutrality. Many content firms, such as Disney, CBS and HBO, will try direct-to-consumer services with exclusive and differentiated content. These actions will force typical consumers to source their entertainment content from a dozen players. Most direct-to-consumer efforts will fail to strike out on their own and lead to consolidation, bundling alliances or use of stronger intermediaries such as Netflix. 
  • More agile technologies for work: We should see adoption of technologies that are more agile, lightweight, open and extensible (e.g., Slack over email; open, cloud-based documents and collaboration over desktop computer tools). Nearly all work will demand rapid and good organization of data and the ability to do meaningful analytics. Companies and people who use these newer tools are five to 10 times more efficient and effective than those who rely on “legacy” tools. Those that don’t adapt will, on account of their inefficiencies, incur higher costs to produce less and slowly wither and die. 
H. Rao Unnava, dean and professor, Graduate School of Management; brand loyalty, consumer response to advertising and sales promotions, and consumer memory
  • Less social interaction in shopping: We will have even less social interaction in our role as consumers. More of us are opting for online over bricks-and-mortar shopping and ordering groceries online for home delivery. Following pioneers in China and Japan, Amazon is experimenting in Seattle with an unattended store where people pay with a cellphone application. And fulfillment businesses are bypassing retailers to offer online subscription services for the delivery of everyday needs.
  • The declining value of ownership: As more people use renting and sharing services like Uber, Lyft, Airbnb or even toy subscription services, the value of ownership will decline. Ownership won’t mean the same thing that it once did.

Higher education: Issues include public trust in research; international, intercultural experiences

MacKenzie Smith, university librarian

Growing public mistrust in the validity of academic research will fuel the crisis in research reproducibility — the ability of scientists to reproduce the results of other scientists — while research funding continues to shrink. Researchers will struggle to comply with government, institutional and publisher mandates to share their publications and data with the public. And efforts by publishers to stop “piracy” will lead to more lawsuits against popular research sharing websites, like those against ResearchGate and Sci-Hub, and possibly even individual researchers, students or their institutions.

Joanna Regulska, vice provost and associate chancellor, Global Affairs

As international experiences are seen worldwide as a critical aspect of employability, an increasing number of U.S. students will participate in study abroad as well as in nontraditional and noncredit experiences abroad and domestically, such as internships, service learning or in other international and intercultural opportunities.

Media Resources

Kimberly Hale, UC Davis News and Media Relations, 530-752-9838,

Kat Kerlin, UC Davis News and Media Relations, 530-750-9195,

Julia Ann Easley, UC Davis News and Media Relations, 530-752-8248,

Karen Nikos-Rose, UC Davis News and Media Relations, 530-219-5472,

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