Thursday, February 21, 2013

Well-meaning lobbying is eventually supplanted by plain old lobbying

I was just gonna include a link to a commentary on Nature News, but something at the end of the article called my attention. From "Bees, lies and evidence-based policy"(Lynn Dicks at Nature News & Comment):
Yet I also see that lies and exaggeration on both sides are a necessary part of the democratic process to trigger rapid policy change. It is simply impossible to interest millions of members of the public, or the farming press, with carefully reasoned explanations. And politicians respond to public opinion much more readily than they respond to science.
Which is an important point. In fact, one of the most convincing commentaries for me was based on the very understanding that scientists and all their uncertainties are always in disadvantage when compared to the unshakable belief of other policy actors. But I'm at loss about the need to dumb down the arguments in order to convince politicians. And I must disagree strongly with her conclusion, from the same Comment:
It is important to get as near to the decision-makers as possible, providing clear and well-referenced information with an independent voice. (...)
When I saw the exaggerated pollinator-decline claim attributed to me in The Guardian I did not seek to correct it, because the correct information, with references, will go into a forthcoming parliamentary-committee report.
It is shortsighted or worst to think that we can inform policy-makers without trying to correct the public understanding. Our dismaying state of political affairs is in large part consequence of this disconnect between the State as envisioned and as implemented -- governments don't see themselves as having to respond to those they represent, except in a shallow, populistic way. Her attitude might earn her a small immediate victory, but at a high cost in the long term. As scientists, the adoption of our favored solutions by politicians should not serve as a consolation for the maintenance of ignorance and misinformation. A likely outcome is to have an unpopular policy implemented, just waiting to be reverted back or replaced by another opaque and unaccountable one.

Bottom-up advocacy by informed citizens is always a better option than lobbying. If her proposed solution of cozy relations with policy-makers while neglecting the public is successful, we can expect the appearance of a lot of nonsense "correct information reports". It's "cheaper" to fake authority than to educate and convince the general public. In other words, politicians cannot distinguish between good and bad lobbyists. And this, in the end, will lead to a dillution of scientific education and to a politicization of scientists.

Accepting that scientists must work twice as hard to have half the impact is still better than the alternatives. Education is the only way to go (and by the way, science reporting falls short of that, too).

No comments:

Post a Comment

Before writing, please read carefully my policy for comments. Some comments may be deleted.

Please do not include links to commercial or unrelated sites in your comment or signature, or I'll flag it as SPAM.


Related Posts with Thumbnails