by Jennifer Donovan
Scientists collect and analyze facts. Data. Information. Policy advocates use—or sometimes misuse—data to support or condemn one public policy or another. The facts about global climate change prove that we should (or shouldn't) ban coal-fired power plants, they might say. Are there irreconcilable differences between science and advocacy? Can good scientists also be advocates? Should they be?
The answers—like so many in this complex, interwoven world—are yes, no, and sometimes.
John Vucetich, a wildlife ecologist and associate professor in the School of Forest Resources and Environmental Science, believes that scientists are "citizens first and scientists second." So, he says, "they have a responsibility to advocate to the best of their abilities and in a justified and transparent manner."