Spring 2012

Perspective: Restore Science to Its Rightful Place | Catalyst Spring 2012


Restore Science to Its Rightful Place

Over the past several years, as our members are acutely aware, our nation has been beset by an increasing disregard for objective knowledge and evidence-based analysis in government decisions. Examples abound: industry-funded pseudo-science is injected not only into the news media and the blogosphere, but also into Congress and state capitols; highly qualified experts have found their nominations for important government positions and advisory panels blocked; the facts about climate science—accepted in virtually every other nation—are commonly ignored and disparaged in American discourse. Today’s hyper-partisan debate makes it difficult for political leaders (and many of their constituents) to agree on even the basic facts underlying a problem, let alone a policy solution grounded in science.

We believe this situation calls for a serious and significant response. So, as Catalyst goes to press, the Union of Concerned Scientists is preparing to launch a bold new initiative called the Center for Science and Democracy, whose ambitious goal is nothing less than restoring the essential role of science, evidence-based knowledge, and constructive debate in American policy making and the democratic process.

The Center started taking shape last December with a workshop that brought together some of the nation’s top thinkers on government, the natural and social sciences, media and communications, and philanthropy. They all resoundingly endorsed the need for action, helped us define the Center’s purpose and scope, and offered creative and innovative ideas for addressing the problems identified.

Though the Center will formally launch in May, some activities are already under way. We have begun building a foundation of support among the nearly 20,000 scientists, engineers, economists, and medical professionals who are already members of the UCS Science Network. Next, we will host a series of high-profile forums to facilitate a collaboration between scientists, policy makers, and citizens on the key obstacles to developing and enacting science-based policies. We will also build and strengthen vital partnerships with leading scientific organizations and professional societies, as well as leaders across the political spectrum.

Looking back through our nation’s history, we have made the biggest gains in our health, prosperity, and security when our decisions have been guided by the best available science. The Center for Science and Democracy aims to ensure a cleaner and safer environment for all Americans by bringing science back to decision making. Stay tuned for more on this exciting new initiative, including opportunities for you to get involved.

Kevin Knobloch, president