The Daily Scoop: What is the Role of Scientists in American Politics?

 For the most part scientists keep themselves at arms length from the political fray. They present the facts in an objective manner and leave them out there for everyone else’s interpretation. However, this allows others of influence in the political arenas with opportunity to spin those facts into a size and shape to fit into the mold of their political agenda. Scientists rarely step forward to correct the frequent misrepresentation of their research findings. Given the current political environment of “say anything to get elected” and the highly charged debates surrounding climate change and environmental regulation one may ask, is it time for scientists to step forward and defend the facts with as much vigor as politicians and policymakers who seek to discredit them? From the scientists’ perspective there is risk. Taking a position leaves them open to accusations of bias and closed-mindedness which, in the future, may well impact acceptance of their future research. But has the political gamesmanship reached such a point where it is time for scientists to set the record straight by standing firm behind their findings and demand valid, testable evidence from those who seek to counter or discredit the research? In other words is it time to challenge the “just because someone says it [on television, on radio, or on the internet], it must be true” rationale?

Consider these questions while reading the following article and ruminate on role science and scientists should play in today’s political environment.
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2 Comments to “The Daily Scoop: What is the Role of Scientists in American Politics?”

  1. Your query is particularly timely given today starts the Durban round of the Climate Change Conference. It may, however reflect a false distinction between “science” and “political environment.” Every act is political and environmental.

    With respect, if the United States’ withdrawal from the Kyoto Protocol, it’s abysmal performance in Copenhagen, and what appears to be its collusion against the Durban talks demonstrate anything, the problem is political will or lack of it.

    As in all things, presentation matters, I suppose, and we may enjoy being educated more by PBS than AAAS, which, come to think of it, is reflected in corporate attacks on public funding of CPB. But I think it is true now, and has always been true, that what is needed is political commitment to change.

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