Last week I posted an invitation that arrived from the Heritage Foundation for an anti-science briefing that was about to take place directed at Capitol Hill staffers. My purpose was simple:
I’ve reposted the text because I don’t think most scientists understand the way policy decisions are influenced. We may have a more scientific Washington than when I worked in DC, but science and its allies must fight harder than ever before. Some groups are already effective. Some of us are trying new initiatives. I’m optimistic and realize that change happens slowly, but I hope those working in policy-related areas will take note and become more involved making sure that sound science moves beyond the lab. Because when we’re not explaining what we do and why it matters, someone else is telling the story for us. And we often won’t like the result.
An interesting dialog followed in comments and around the internet. It also seems to have struck a nerve with Mike The Mad Biologist, although I’m not clear why. He accuses me of ‘blaming the scientists’ as ‘a professional science communicator.’ Thing is, I never signed up to be a ‘professional science communicator.’ Or at least no more so than the rest of the science bloggers (like Mike) and writers who happened upon this trajectory. I’ve never taken a journalism course in my life. Mike writes:
I do research, others do research and teaching, others primarily teach. Regardless, we’re in the game. We’re doing our part. We’re doing science. But carping on other people’s supposed failures is not doing science.
Apparently Mike doesn’t seem to think I’m part of the science community even though I’ve just left one of the most effective conservation groups in the nation. In fact, my incredible mentor and dear colleague Stuart Pimm receives the Tyler Prize this week (Go Stuart!). Mike continues:
Worse, by blaming generic ‘scientists’, as opposed to specific scientists or science-based groups, Kirshenbaum simutaneously misidentifies the problem, while reinforcing negative stereotypes. Win! FAIL.
Mike, since you addressed me in your post, I’ll respond to you directly here: Science, policy, and our collective future are all connected. It’s critically important that everyone recognizes what’s happening in the legislative realm. So when I get invited to an anti-science event, I’m going to post it publicly to demonstrate what we’re up against. You suggest I:
go fucking forth and do some science.
And stop blaming the victim.
Your anger is misdirected and in-fighting gets us nowhere. So put those gloves back on, we’re sitting at laptops. Furthermore, I’m doing some pretty cool science. (More details on that coming soon…)
Today Bora, Abel, and I visited Duke’s Sanford Institute on Public Policy for the second year in a row to discuss the coverage of science, health, and policy. We chatted with a group of undergraduates about the evolution of science blogs, the emergence of blogging networks, the role of science blogs vs the MSM, and where open-access fits in. Our beloved scibling Isis even made a guest appearance via gchat!
After the morning in such wonderful company, I’m already looking forward to next year!