Rice, J. C. (2011). Advocacy science and fisheries decision-making. ICES Journal of Marine Science: Journal du Conseil, 68(10), 2007-2012.
"The principals of empiricism, objectivity, falsifiability, and unbiased interpretation of results are the heart of sound science” (Rice 2008). This ability to provide unbiased, objective results shows the key value in science. Only by utilizing this can the value of science in policy making be fully attained. However, this can only be done when the expert’s personal preference and the findings are presented in their entirety.
Scientists should not practice advocacy in presenting their findings. Rice asserts that "science advice must meet standards for objectivity, impartiality, and lack of bias” (2007). When scientists seek to advocate for a certain position regarding a topic, they interject bias into the results and skew public perception of the topic. The media is general “headline hungry (Rice 2008). Because of this, if a topic is selectively reported, the media can quickly spread the wrong interpretation of the topic. This in turn can influence policy that is geared toward an incorrect interpretation of the actual results. Because the media can distort the findings, the bias may not always the fault of the scientists. However, when a scientist begins to advocate for a certain position, bias is introduced into the situation. This is because when advocating for a certain action, the personal preferences are given precedence over the other findings. This leads to public and policy makers to believe that these portions of the findings are more significant and pressing, which then results in an incomplete policy that fails to address the full extent of findings and its corresponding implications.
As Rice notes, “decision makers give more weight to short-term outcomes then the long run.” Thus, by scientists advocating for what they deem to be the most pressing part of their findings, these will more likely to be addressed in policy instead of a more comprehensive policy that addresses all aspects of the issue.
While many will argue that only by combining science and advocacy can the pressing issues be brought to light, there are many other ways for these issues to garner attention. It is an unfortunate failure of the political system that the advice of scientists is ignored, but changing this factor is difficult without introducing bias into the equation. This is not to say that all advice from scientists should be disregarded. Because of the sheer amount of data and present issues, it is common for politicians to ignore the issue and address the more pressing concerns.
Due to this, a better combination of the political system and scientists is needed that do not result in incomplete policies that do not fully address the issue.