Scientists Eager to Engage on Environment but Concerned about Peer Perceptions
A survey of more than 500
researchers indicates that scientists have the desire to get more involved in
public discussion and policy decisions regarding environmental issues, but they have
concerns about how their efforts might be perceived.
The results of the survey, published
in Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, show that scientists overwhelmingly
support outreach efforts. Ninety-eight percent of participants said they
would be willing to advocate for a policy if they felt there was sufficient
scientific evidence to support their position. However, many participants
also indicated they were concerned that their peers would disapprove of
this type of activity.
Tom Sisk, Olajos-Goslow Chair of Environmental Science and Policy at
Northern Arizona University and a co-author of the study, said “there is an
inherent contradiction in what researchers believe and how they act—a strong
majority of scientists believe that policy engagement is important, yet many do
not get involved themselves. It’s a conundrum that indicates a need for change
in the culture of science.”
Sisk added that many researchers
feel they have important knowledge that could contribute to environmental
problem-solving, yet they often remain on the sidelines.
Confidence played a big role in
whether researchers were willing to get involved. Those who felt they were good
at reaching out did so more often, while negative experiences turned people
“We identified some of the barriers
that prevent scientists from engaging,” said Gerald Singh of the University of
British Columbia, who is the lead author of the study. “It turns out that one
of the biggest barriers is whether they perceive themselves as competent.”
Singh suggested that researchers
take part in communication training early in their career to boost confidence
and to avoid the likelihood of a negative experience.
--Courtesy of NAU Public Affairs