Advocacy is an acceptable activity in which all people, including scientists, should be allowed to participate. The real dilemma comes from the debate as to whether scientists should be allowed to use their scientific data and observations to help in their advocacy. Also, is it even moral for scientists to use advocacy to sway the masses?
Scientists should be allowed to advocate when and where they so choose, but as private citizens, not members of the scientific community. When writing papers, or other serious publications, scientists should refrain from defining a clear or biased stance on any issue. However, in conjunction with a scientific publication, a subjective personal opinion could be included as well. The paper should make clear that stance is the authorís personal opinion, whether based on scientific evidence or the interpretation thereof, and not straight fact.
Letís define an issue to be one of global warming, given a set of research: scientific data, including years-worth of figures, graphs, and past climate trends. A certain scientist M is of the opinion that all of these results suggest that global warming is most certainly a concern and that they also represent an imminent danger to society. M also is of the opinion that cutting down on the use of laptop computers would significantly slow down the warming trend. M should be allowed to publish their work, the figures, data, etc. M should even be allowed in that scientific paper to make suggests and interpretation of possible or probably future trends. However, M should not be permitted to make suggestions as to what kind of public policy should be adopted as a consequence of this research. If M so desires, M could write a separate, non-scientific, paper addressing, the steps M believes should be taken to reduce or impede global warming. If M advocates the policy changes that M wants, Mís position as a scientific authority could influence government or the public. This could result, in extreme cases, in the banning of laptops or other such portable devices. Now, hopefully, if Mís opinion is presented as just that. The opinion of an informed, educated citizen, then maybe people will take it into consideration, but wonít give Mís opinion the same weight if M published it in scientific writing. Mís opinion as a citizen should be given the same amount of credence as any other private citizen. Mís findings and research could be accepted as fact, but Mís private agenda should not interfere with the scientific knowledge gained from Mís research.
The public and the scientific community can benefit from scientific advocacy. The opinions of scientist could be more informed than that of other citizens. Still, scientists need to show discretion when publishing or announcing their own personal beliefs. Scientists advocacy should be given equal, but not great than, weight as that of all educated people. Therefore, while scientists should be allowed full rights as private citizens to advocate their beliefs whenever and wherever they wish, scientists should show restraint when producing works of scientific basis.
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