Groups Call for Scientists to Engage the Body Politic

The New York Times:

When asked to name a scientist, Americans are stumped. In one recent survey, the top choice, at 47 percent, was Einstein, who has been dead since 1955, and the next, at 23 percent, was “I don’t know.” In another survey, only 4 percent of respondents could name a living scientist.

While these may not have been statistically rigorous exercises, they do point to something real: In American public life, researchers are largely absent. Trained to stick to the purity of the laboratory, they tend to avoid the sometimes irrational hurly-burly of politics.

For example, according to the Congressional Research Service, the technically trained among the 435 members of the House include one physicist, 22 people with medical training (including 2 psychologists and a veterinarian), a chemist, a microbiologist and 6 engineers.

Now several groups are trying to change that. They want to encourage scientists and engineers to speak out in public debates and even run for public office. When it comes to global warming and a host of other technical issues, “there is a disconnect between what science says and how people perceive what science says,” said Barbara A. Schaal, a biologist and vice president of the National Academy of Sciences. “We need to interact with the public for our good and the public good.”

Read the whole story: The New York Times

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