Background Science is a contentious area. Climate change, GMOs, the allocation of water, preserving and protecting the environment: all these areas are hotly contested in our societies. Industry associations, special interest lobby groups and public companies all compete to have their voices heard and their preferred position adopted by government.

Where do scientists fit in to these debates? They are the cool voice of reason ‐ should they too lobby vigorously to ensure that government policy is based on a rational examination of the evidence? Or can they leave it up to our politicians to separate truth from ideology, fact from naked self‐interest? Can governments be trusted to make the right decision? Methods This paper examines times when scientists have entered the world of politics, and the methods they have used to ensure that their voice is heard.

Results Scientists have been able to influence debates, and they have won funding for scientific research. The results, though, have not always been the conclusion of a rational examination of the facts.

Conclusions Scientists have to accept that they are in a battle for the minds of decision‐ makers, and that politics is an essential part of a career in research. Having the best ideas is no longer enough.

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Public Communication of Science and Technology

 

How scientists try to influence the decisions of Government

Toss Gascoigne   Council for Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences

Background Science is a contentious area. Climate change, GMOs, the allocation of water, preserving and protecting the environment: all these areas are hotly contested in our societies. Industry associations, special interest lobby groups and public companies all compete to have their voices heard and their preferred position adopted by government.

Where do scientists fit in to these debates? They are the cool voice of reason ‐ should they too lobby vigorously to ensure that government policy is based on a rational examination of the evidence? Or can they leave it up to our politicians to separate truth from ideology, fact from naked self‐interest? Can governments be trusted to make the right decision? Methods This paper examines times when scientists have entered the world of politics, and the methods they have used to ensure that their voice is heard.

Results Scientists have been able to influence debates, and they have won funding for scientific research. The results, though, have not always been the conclusion of a rational examination of the facts.

Conclusions Scientists have to accept that they are in a battle for the minds of decision‐ makers, and that politics is an essential part of a career in research. Having the best ideas is no longer enough.

A copy of the full paper has not yet been submitted.

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