In a letter to JCOM: The Journal of Science Communication, Joseph Roche and Nicola Davis take a look at how the relationship between science and society evolved – or devolved – in 2016, and share some ideas for turning things around.
They ask an important, and somewhat worrisome, question:
“Will science once again be regarded with suspicion by a society that feels excluded from its practice and is apathetic about its benefits?”
While 2016 was a year with many incredible scientific advances, the authors say they may be too little too late:
“Tempering these achievements, however, was the global rise of anti-establishment populism that has rocked the foundations upon which societal faith in science is built.”
The explain how Brexit and the U.S. Presidential Election dealt quite a blow to science:
“Scientists in the U.S. must now find a way to work with an administration that openly refutes scientific evidence on climate change. Sadly, and fittingly, Oxford Dictionaries declared “post-truth” to be its international word of 2016.”
In addition to getting involved in the political process, there are ways in which the scientific community may be able to help itself during uncertain times:
“As junior academics in the field, we continually find ourselves advising undergraduate and postgraduate science students on their value to society, as well as their responsibilities. These students are often fearful for their future career options. In the current political climate, they see only troubled waters ahead and are eager for reassurance that the ship can be steadied. We appeal to the senior members of the science communication community to become even more vocal with your advice and guidance — use your experience to help us navigate through these turbulent times for science in society and help ensure that we are strong enough to stay the course.”
Citation: Roche, J. and Davis, N. (2017). ‘Should the science communication community play a role in political activism?’. JCOM 16 (01), L01.