Science is Political.
Science and humanities are crucial to handle the crises we are experiencing in our increasingly globalized society. In 2017 I was member of the organizing team for the Science March in Lisbon, Portugal. Following this experience I founded Science for Progress, a science advocacy project.
Listen to me talking about the founding of Science for Progress on our podcast:
For academia to play its role in society, it needs to be the best it can be. This takes continuous work to optimize research and working conditions within academia. The academic system has many flaws that need to be addressed:
– leadership training for principle investigators
– teaching training for professors
– discrimination of minorities in hiring
– incentives to adopt open science practices
– applying a better peer review system
– reducing publication pressure
– minimizing bias and increasing meritocracy in research(er) evaluation
– appropriate contracts for postdocs, and doctoral students
– restructuring of the academic workforce away from a purely ‘trainee’-based system
– involvement of industry in the training of PhDs who target a career in industry
Academia and Society
Science has an image problem. Anti-expert, anti-science, and anti-progress resentments are easily propagated by groups with interests contrary to scientific consensus. Groups like the anti-vaccine advocates, climate change deniers, animal rights activists, and GMO scaremongers, and in some regions creationists, are successfully undermining the reputation of scientists, and science itself. Likewise, the humanities are suffering from a lack of acceptance while political groups are eroding the hard earned lessons of history, and the values embedded in human and civil rights. This is in part possible, because modern society puts more emphasis on economic success through technological progress than on social issues.
At the same time, in a democratic system, academia depends on the voters as allies. While science communication is increasing, it mainly focuses on the dissemination of scientific results… and this is often done badly. The most popular news outlets appear to also employ the least scientifically literate science journalists. High quality outlets of science journalism, usually do not reach deep enough into the general public. Another growing sector focuses on the human side of individual scientists, mostly through social media outlets.
However, what we also need is a populace knowledgeable of the nature of research, the scientific process, and the way academia works. We want voters to support evidence based policies, as well as funding and better working conditions for academics at the ballot.
Academia and Governance
Just as the general public, decision makers in politics need to be aware of the scientific evidence and expert opinions. Physical realities do not compromise, but it often appears like politicians were not aware, treating subjects like climate change, GMOs, and proven quackery, as if ‘the science wasn’t in, yet’. There is also the need to continued defense of academic freedom, which has become under attack in increasingly authoritarian countries.
Science for Progress
With Science for Progress, I want to work on these three major topics to hopefully contribute to the continuous effort to improve the impact of science and humanities for humankind.
I want to grow Science for Progress to a community of motivated members to address these issues. At the moment, I am providing a platform for people already working on these issues: a twitter rotating curation account, and a podcast.