Scientists (and the professoriate) as bullies?

The White House has this past week released a report on the impending consequences of global climate change, consequences which are largely being observed already throughout the country.  Severe droughts in the Southwest and Pacific coast, intense hurricanes and tropical storms (think Sandy), and more frequent/intense wildfires are only a few of the many impacts directly affecting human lives and the sustainability of our food supplies.  As an environmentalist, it’s a relief to finally see the President begin making these issues a headline for conversation, which has previously taken a back seat to other domestic affairs.

Bringing this issue to the forefront of media coverage, however, invites other unsavory topics.  One of the most prominent is the public divide in opinion on whether climate change is truly an artifact of human activity.  This obviously underscores the ineffectiveness of scientific communication about the threats and realities associated with climate change, but also highlights differences in political party associations and even religious affiliations.

Even more distressing than these apparent lapses in communication between science and the public, however, are recent accusation of scientific bullying.  A recent CNN interview really brought this to the media forefront.  Whether this accusation is a real sentiment among Americans, or just the most recent ploy of the conservative party to paint scientists (and their “liberal allies”) as untrustworthy, remains to be seen.

The GPP 2014 subtopic I’ve chosen is “Professors as Public Intellectuals.”  I think the topics of 1) professorial communication to the public and 2) perception of the professoriate /scientists(potentially as “bullies”) both may serve as areas for further conversation.  I look forward to having these discussions as our time to meeting our Swiss counterparts approaches!


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