Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Pro: Why Scientists Need a Voice in Policy Making

While science advocacy is not today's norm, I believe that it should grow into an accepted practice among policymakers. The biggest argument I heard in our class debate against scientists promoting advocacy is that they will let their biases and preconceptions cloud their judgment on the subject, end up corrupting results, and lead other policymakers that aren't scientifically gifted astray. A similar argument is presented in an article by Jake Price (2011), that science, and therefore scientists have to remain removed from the issue or their predispositions become a problem. While I can see that this is a worthy concern, it also seems like an ignorant one. 

All people are biased. And I know that by bringing that up, I sound like I shouldn't be supporting science advocacy, but here me out. All people are biased: politicians, teachers, janitors, policymakers, accountants, scientists. You can't ever escape bias, no matter hard you try, because it's what makes you unique. We learn bias from our families, friends, and environments; they are impossible to avoid. Since everyone is biased, wouldn't it be better to have someone involved who knows the science behind the policy, like a scientist, rather than just policymakers, who might not take the time or have the capacity to completely understand the results of any testing that was involved.

Additionally, it would be hard for a scientist to present corrupt results in a paper. Papers are reviewed multiple times in a double-blind edit by the scientist's peers. If their experiment, results, or conclusions don't make sense, the reviewer recommends that the scientist conduct more research and that the journal not publish the article. While scientists can be biased, science itself cannot. Results don't lie, and if science is done properly, the experiment leads to a logical conclusion. If a scientist tried to present something to their peers that wasn't completely supported by the results of their research, then the conclusions they made in that paper wouldn't be accepted. So rather than barring a scientist from policy making, perhaps policymakers should consider their own biases before more carefully before the scientists they work with. 

Rice, J. C. (2011). Advocacy science and fisheries decision-making. ICES Journal Of Marine Science / Journal Du Conseil68(10), 2007-2012.

1 comment:

  1. PRO
    I agree that it is hard for scientists to present corrupt results in a paper. Scientists have to go through an extremely extensive process to get even reviewed, much less published. That is why peer-reviewed articles are usually such good research and trusted. Peer-reviewed articles are not skewed or biased in any way, and if they were, the reviewers and editors would catch it. Even if they somehow didn't, the public would hold that scientist publically accountable if they found out, and that research would be thrown out the window.