I believe that scientists should withhold the right to advocate if they so choose because some scientists feel that they are morally obligated to do so, this advocacy could improve public awareness as well as guide public opinion, and it could also supplement and aid in the policy decision making process. Some people may argue that advocacy decreases the objectivity of scientists, however, Ian Mitroff, a well-established professor at the University of Southern California, discovered, after extensive research, that the most educated and prestigious scientists are not objective, but they develop their hypotheses and then become advocates of this hypothesis (Armstrong 423).
Some scientists feel morally obligated to advocate their scientific findings. An individuals morals and ethics should not be determined for them through the work field that they choose to enter. Many scientists intentionally study things that they are interested in and passionate about, and therefore feel that it is their duty to inform the public on significant findings in their research. For example, a conservation scientist, who is most likely interested in species conservation due to her choice to study in this particular field, should retain the right to share her findings and opinion on significant findings such as the near extinction or endangerment of a species.
Scientists should also hold the right to advocate because this could increase public awareness, which would ultimately allow the public to develop their own opinions. Peer- review journals and scientific articles are written with a scientific audience in mind. Because of this, they can be very hard for the general public to understand, and the public cannot form opinions on material that they do not understand. By scientists advocating and explaining their research, the general public becomes more aware of the findings as well as methodology of the research. Once the public has a clear understanding of the subject at hand, they can begin to formulate their own opinions; this could not be done with out the advocacy of scientists.
Finally, scientists should be able to advocate because it could greatly influence and impact the decision making process. Policy makers can sometimes misinterpret scientific findings just as the common person would, which could be detrimental in some instances. Mistakes in policies due to the lack of knowledge on scientific findings could cause the government to loose large sums of money as well as resources and time. James Karr, a professor of ecology, explains how science and scientists play a huge role in several of the decisions that are made by policy makers (287). If scientists do not advocate their opinions on future steps to be taken according to their research results, several issues could arise that could greatly affect everyone.
I firmly believe that scientists should retain the right to advocate if they so desire to. Although some people might argue that science and scientists should be objective, previous research has been done that refutes this argument. Scientists should be able to freely display what they feel is morally right, even if it is advocacy or not. Withholding this right from anyone would almost be like denying them of their inalienable rights. Scientists should also be able to advocate in that it would increase public awareness of scientific findings that might not have been understand; this would allow the public to form an opinion on different scientific findings. Lastly, scientists should be able to advocate because it would be extremely beneficial to policy makers during the policy making process, and could stop detrimental errors from occurring. These are only a few of the many reasons why scientists should be able to advocate, and they should be reviewed carefully and taken into consideration.
Armstrong, S.J. (1979) Advocacy and Objectivity in Science. Management Science, Vol. 25, No.5 pp.423-428 http://www.jstor.org/stable/2630273
Karr, J.R. (2006) When Government Ignores Science, Scientists Should Speak Up. BioScience, Vol. 56, No. 4 pp. 287-288