Nine Days to Go: A Call to Arms

In anticipation of the paperback release, the book website is being substantially upgraded. It announces many new tour dates, most recently including this one in Ohio. It now shows the actual paperback cover image (displayed in high resolution below after the jump). Furthermore, there's a new book description; and most importantly for our current purposes, a new introduction from the author (moi).

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More features to the site will appear in the coming days. But right now, with nine days til pub, I'd like to highlight some central themes enunciated in the new website intro (the same themes are developed at considerably more length in the new preface to the paperback). Here's a key excerpt from that intro:

I often heard from readers of the first edition of The Republican War on Science that it made their blood boil but didn't explain where to channel their anger. Ever since, I've been thinking about this problem, as my subsequent writings demonstrate (see for example here). And I've concluded that it's long past time that political attacks on science be met with a political response--which is going to require that scientists themselves stand up, in a concerted way, to defend the knowledge they have brought into the world.

If the hardcover edition of my book raised alarm, then, the newly revised paperback represents a call to arms. I hope you will read it in that light, and then join myself and the scientific community in helping to restore scientific integrity to our government and public life.

This new focus on activism must have several different components. For example, at the link above, I focus heavily on how important it is that scientists learn how to communicate their knowledge to the public. Ultimately this should culminate in political communication campaigns just as sophisticated as the anti-science campaigns that attack evolution or global warming, but which actually present good information rather than misinformation.

Teaching scientists how to understand framing and messaging will be a key part of the strategy. Matthew Nisbet and I have actually done a joint public talk along these lines that I will be linking as soon as the video is available; it goes into much more detail. Indeed, our own "message" may be catching on: In a July 2006 editorial in Bioscience, editor-in-chief Timothy Beardsley writes about Nisbet's presentation to the American Institute of Biological Sciences on this subject and concludes: "Although some scientists might want to do no more than lament ignorant attitudes and return to their terminals, they risk being marginalized in an often unsympathetic political climate. Frames suggest an alternative strategy."

But framing is just part of the story. There's another activist angle, one that's equally strategic but more explicitly political. It involves scientists actually opposing candidates who ignore, distort, or attack science, in order to demonstrate that this kind of behavior is not acceptable and not without consequence. Of course, the candidates explicitly targeted in this way would only be the most extreme--i.e., the James Inhofes of the world. And for practical reasons, they would have to be politically vulnerable in the first place.

This is a theme I have long included in my public talks, and I will have much more to say about it in the coming days and weeks, as the 2006 elections approach. But for now, note a central commonality to both of these points: Scientists need to wake up and learn how the political game is actually played so that they can then fend off attacks effectively. In other words, in light of the current war on science, hiding in the ivory tower will no longer suffice.

More like this

I don't have my copy yet of the latest edition of Chris Mooney's The Republican War on Science, but I've been told that it's on its way. And, believe me, I'll bump it up to the top of my reading list when I get it, so you can expect a review sometime soon. I'm embarrassed to admit that I never…
This is the picture--suspiciously resembling my colleague and Scibling Matt Nisbet--that runs alongside our two and a half page letters exchange (PDF) in the current issue of Science. Essentially, there are four letters reacting to and criticizing various aspects of our "Framing Science" policy…
When pundits like Richard Dawkins use the trust and authority granted them as scientists to denigrate religious publics, is it unethical? On issues such as climate change, nanotechnology, and evolution, research in the area of framing is being used to design and plan communication initiatives and…
Over the summer I addressed by video conference a meeting by the National Academies on state science policy advice. They've now produced a report based on that meeting and it is free as a PDF download. Chapter Five of the report focuses on the communication of science advice at the state level…

Dear Mr. Mooney

My wife Ann and I are Parkinson's patient advocates. We have both had PD for 11 years. We were invited to represent the patient advocate position on the Stem Cell Panel at this year's Beckman Institute Scholars Symposium at UC Irvine, which recently concluded. Inspired in part by your book, we decided to tackle theme of "scientist as advocate" as a response to the war on science head on. Here is a link to our talk.

Keep up the great work.

Greg Wasson

By Greg Wasson (not verified) on 20 Aug 2006 #permalink

Mr. Wasson.

I just read your eloquent piece and must thank you and your wife for your work to educate people about Parkinson's and also about the Bush admin war on science.

I too grew up in the heyday of American science and have noticed a marked change in recent years in the attitude of our leaders toward scientists. In the halls of government, where scientists were once respected and sought out for their valuable, informed advice, they are now ignored, or dismissed (sometimes contemptuously).

Luckily, the change in attitude is primarily among our leaders and not with the general public, who still have a very high opinion of scientists.

Rest assured. People like yourselves (and Chris Mooney) are having an impact.

The American people are smarter, more fair-minded and compassionate than some our leaders assume.

By Dark Tent (not verified) on 22 Aug 2006 #permalink