Pro: Scientists Should be Advocates?
Source: SMITH, A. (1975). The New Scientist-Advocates. Bulletin Of The Atomic Scientists, 31(2), 16-18.
Representative Mike McCormack
Representative Mike McCormack, a chemist, of Washington spoke at the annual meeting of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers in December of 1975. He addressed the crowd by saying “I propose to challenge you, as scientists and engineers, to assume a more active role as responsible citizens, helping develop public understanding on this critically important subject [of energy production and environmental protection].” Rep. McCormack wanted scientists to be committee staffers on Capitol Hill to ensure that legislation was compatible with the latest scientific findings. This type of science advocacy serves the nation because scientists have the best training to understand the latest research and discoveries. More of today’s pressing issues are technical in nature and this requires advance training to interpret results, and scientists have the best training to do this. By not being involved in the policy process or advocating science, scientist leave the public and politicians uniformed; this increases the risk that decisions will be ill-informed or ineffective policies may be implemented. Untimely, taxpayers and society pay for these mistakes, but this does not have to be the case. The scientific community can reduce these risks by becoming advocates and inform the public about scientific findings.
In August 2, 1939, Albert Einstein and Leo Szilard wrote a letter to President Roosevelt about recent developments in nuclear research in Europe and its potential consequences. Einstein and Szilard were concerned that Germany may attempt to recreate a nuclear chain reaction. In turn, Germany may have the power to develop a nuclear weapon, which would give it an advantage in war. Einstein urged President Roosevelt to secure a supply of uranium for the U.S. and for the government to begin funding nuclear research. President Roosevelt created the Advisory Committee on Uranium, which would be superseded by the Manhattan Project in 1942. This is an example of scientific advocacy that changed the course of history. Whether one agrees or disagrees with nuclear weapons, it is important to realize the impact and influence that Einstein had on President Roosevelt and the creation of the Manhattan Project. Science advocacy played an important role at that time, just as it does in solving today’s problems.
President Roosevelt's Response