At Greenwire last week, Paul Voosen offered an important look at the role that scientists sometimes play as policy advocates including research by Stanford’s John Krosnick and others that examines the conditions under which such efforts might backfire.  Below are some thoughts that I offered Voosen:

The survey sits well with other research in the field and carries an implication about what role scientists should play in scientific debates, added Matthew Nisbet, a communication professor at American University. ”As soon as you start talking about a policy option, you’re presenting information that is potentially threatening to people’s values or identity,” he said. The public, he added, doesn’t “view scientists and scientific information in a vacuum.”… There remains a danger in the emerging consensus that all scientific knowledge is filtered by the motivated reasoning of political and cultural ideology, Nisbet added. Not all people can be sorted by two, or even four, variables. ”In the new ideological deficit model, we tend to assume that failures in communication are caused by conservative media and conservative psychology,” he said. “The danger in this model is that we define the public in exclusively binary terms, as liberals versus conservatives, deniers versus believers.”

See Also:
Study: How Scientists View the Public, the Media, and the Political Process

Do Scientists Have a Special Duty to Engage in Advocacy?