There’s just no doubt that science is increasingly central to major public policy challenges facing political leadership worldwide.
Given that fact, wouldn’t you think that science would also be at the center of political discussions taking place across the globe?
In some places, it may well be. However, in others, the science aspect of key concerns is not given the prominence it clearly deserves.
What’s the Problem?
Such hugely important issues as climate change, energy, critical natural resources, and pandemics are given low priority in general political discourse. Could it be (at least in part) that many political leaders and media personnel really are not equipped to comprehend “the reality (from science)” that is so central to these challenges?
Maybe they know their weaknesses, and so they avoid engaging the topic publicly?
In the U.S., for example, many politicians at all levels – profuse with opinion on a great many subjects, such as the economy or social matters – are nonetheless unable to tie their opinions in any but the most superficial ways to the authentic science that underlies science-relevant issues. Some appear to evidence the low scientific literacy that is generally pervasive. (They seemingly have “no clue” about how ecology and climatology relate to such fundamental challenges as food supply and ocean health.) Some hold firm to ideas that directly contradict what is well established in science.
Maybe the situation calls for the citizenry to do more to elevate science. What if more and more citizens decide to show that science is high in their concerns about current policy actions and the future?
A grassroots coalition of scientists, engineers and science advocates in the U.S. has already begun the process of raising science as a topic. They are doing this by trying to discern, in advance, the science understanding of candidates seeking public office.
The “Science Debate” coalition identifies itself as “an independent citizens’ initiative asking candidates for office to discuss the top science questions facing America.” It has identified crucial topics deemed to require more consideration and has delineated key the type of questions to be asked of prospective public servants.
What Else to Do?
In the selection of leaders, weighing a certain level of commitment to science (and a minimum of comprehension) is important. Citizens who agree can (and should) show their concern. Taking steps to press media and politicians to at least discuss science more broadly might bear fruit.
Some sample issues: Fresh Water ♦ Climate Change ♦ The Internet ♦ Science in Public Policy ♦ Vaccinations & Public Health ♦ Space ♦ Research & the Future ♦ Education ♦ Energy ♦ Innovation.
Those who agree that more consideration of science is needed can elevate the discussion themselves. How about directing some pointed queries to candidates in public forums? Or, perhaps take opportunities presented via letters to the editor? Might you put out key ideas more frequently in social media?
All these are means for raising science-based concerns and elevating discussion of science as a whole in the public square. If others won’t do it, maybe you will.
This may be a good resource with which to start:
Sample queries to legislators