“Because we need to make the science stick.”

H. Holden Thorp, writing in Science, an excerpt:

The scientific community needs to step out of its labs and support evidence-based decision-making in a much more public way. The good news is that over the past few years, scientists have increasingly engaged with the public and policy-makers on all levels, from participating in local science cafes, to contacting local representatives and protesting in the international March for Science in 2017 and 2018. Science and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS, the publisher of Science) will continue to advocate for science and its objective application to policy in the United States and around the world, but we too must do more.

Scientists must speak up. In June 2019, Patrick Gonzalez, the principal climate change scientist of the U.S. National Park Service, testified to Congress on the risks of climate change even after he was sent a cease-and-desist letter by the administration (which later agreed that he was free to testify as a private citizen). That’s the kind of gumption that deserves the attention of the greater scientific community. There are many more examples of folks leading federal agencies and working on science throughout the government. When their roles in promoting science to support decision-making are diminished, the scientific community needs to raise its voice in loud objection.

I would add that, from what I have seen, efforts to “remain objective and detached” from the public discourse, even when, objectively, an individual only has the public’s interest at heart, are nearly always met by derision and dismissal by people whose interests are challenged, and, increasingly, in at least the United States, by a public which detests scholarship and expertise. Accordingly, the only path left is speaking out.

And lest readers think this is only directed towards conservatives and Republicans, there are many instances where, say, environmental progressives have departed from evidence-based, scientific considerations and knowledge. Surely not regarding climate change — although the characterization of a cliff edge in 12 years or something is obviously just wrong — but many aspects regarding plastics, potential for afforestation, and on how to implement large scale climate change mitigation and what it will cost.

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This entry was posted in American Association for the Advancement of Science, American Statistical Association, Mark Jacobson. Bookmark the permalink.

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