Is presenting science as a battle against ignorance an exaggeration?

gettyimages-170972160webScience does not speak with a single voice. Sit at a hotel bar during any conference and you will hear impassioned debate over what the data have to say about a certain question. Equally credentialled researchers fall out on whether carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere have passed a tipping point, or on the health risks of sugar.

Those who claim persecution in their pursuit of science would do well to consider whether the pursuit is as pure as they might wish. Science is ripe with problems: irreproducible results, manipulation of statistics, widespread sexual harassment and gender discrimination, and conflicts — or at least what seem to be conflicts — of financial interest, to name but a few. Stepping back to see how all this comes across to non-scientists could be educational.

Science is only one of many factors and interests that a thoughtful politician needs to weigh when choosing a position on a complex topic. If science sometimes loses out to concerns about employment or economics, scientists should not immediately take it as a personal slight. Rather, it is a reason to look for common ground on which to discuss the concerns and work out how science can help: creating jobs in green energy, for instance, or revamping wasteful grant programmes.

Read the full article in Nature

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