If a scientist begins to publicly support a particular policy goal, people will start to think that the scientist is biased toward that particular policy goal. The problem is that people will also think that any research done or data collected is done with the goal of supporting that particular policy. Even if the research conducted in a completely unbiased way, there will always be opposition that will point out the researcher's affiliations and lead to a loss in credibility. A very controversial topic was that of the Spotted Owl which makes its home in the old growth forests of the north-western United States throughout the 1990s even going to the 2000s. Conservationists argued that the owl is an important indicator of ecosystem health and should be protected, while opponents in the timber industry argued that the logging of old growth forests is critical to the economy and protection of the forests would lead to job losses (Andre and Velasquez, n.d.) This was a topic which grabbed the attention of the entire nation and which unbiased scientific data was critical to the decision making process. Scientists which skewed data in this case where highly criticized. In essence, it is critical for scientists to be unbiased in their collection of scientific data or risk of loss of credibility.
Another problem with the idea of scientists being activists is that scientists have a great amount of knowledge about their field of study, but do not know much about policy decisions. Although they may have some great ideas of ways to preserve old growth forests, scientists often do not take into account the amount of work that needs to be put in to enact those measures. Some things that need to be considered when enacting a policy is how much money it will cost, amount of man power, the constitutionality of policies and public support. Legislators are better suited to make those decisions.
Andre, C., & Velasquez, M. (n.d.). Markkula Center for Applied Ethics. Ethics and the Environment: The Spotted Owl Controversy. Retrieved February 24, 2014, from http://www.scu.edu/ethics/publications/iie/v4n1/homepage.html.