Why Advocate for Science Policy?

Conventional advocacy exists to educate and inform politicians about specific issues in an attempt to persuade them to vote a certain way. Politicians hear from many lobbyists on issues ranging from insurance to gun rights. So, if scientists don’t advocate for science, who will?

Science policy is concerned with the allocation of resources for the conduct of science towards the goal of best serving the public interest. Topics include the funding of science, the careers of scientists, and the translation of scientific discoveries into technological innovation to promote commercial product development, competitiveness, economic growth and economic development. Thus, science policy deals with the entire domain of issues that involve science. A large and complex web of factors influences the development of science and engineering that includes government science policy makers, private firms (including both national and multi-national firms), social movements, media, non-governmental organizations, universities, and other research institutions. The advocacy in our group focuses on nonpartisan issues that (1) the value of funding of basic science research and (2) relate to scientific facts that have been rigorously tested in peer-reviewed studies.

To advocate for policy issues, scientists must take special care to gain a better understanding of the roles of the executive and legislative branches of government, and the responsibility that comes with being a reputable advocate. A communicator extraordinaire may do more harm than good if she or he does not understand or appreciate the broader context within which the debate over science policy is conducted.

“The relationship between science policy and advocacy is also a nuanced one. Science can be a powerful tool for developing policies (e.g., public health, food safety), and at the same time policies can have a powerful impact on the conduct of science, in ways that extend far beyond public funding allocations alone.” -Joanne Padrón Carney in Science Advocacy, Defined