GDB3 | The Science activist: should science get Political?
The Science activist: should science get Political?
Convener: Kirsten v. Elverfeldt | Co-conveners: Viktor J. Bruckman, Simon Clark, Christina West
Tue, 25 Apr, 10:45–12:30 (CEST)
Room E1
Tue, 10:45
Proponents of collaboration between scientific experts with advocacy and activist groups point towards the inextricable bonds between science and politics, where neither exist in a vacuum and silence only perpetuates the problems research seeks to resolve. Opponents cite the threat to integrity: scientists associated with or engaging in activism risk producing an image of science as a political group rather than a dispassionate process of knowledge generation. Such an image may erode public trust and risk political retaliation through funding cuts. Identifying the threshold between maintaining scientific integrity and motivating change is therefore critical, as it strikes the balance between preserving the academy and positioning science to have real impact. As many researchers are driven to science by their own passions, a considerable intersect exists between the desire to do science and to see beneficial, just change in real terms. This makes for a suitable debate where the lines scientists walk can be discussed, such as the balance between scientists actively engaging advocates and activists, and the scientist’s positions as a neutral broker of information. This debate will be driven questions seeking to demarcate this boundary, asking: Is there an ethical imperative for geoscientists to engage with climate-advocacy groups? How can scientists best support advocates for evidence-based societal and environmental change? How political should science be, and is there a line which, when crossed, may threaten scientific integrity? Is there space for both knowledge brokers and science advocates when pursuing change? Should scientist look towards grass-root movements or engage with governmental institutions? What does scientific activism look like, and can it be implemented across a range of actions?
  • Dr Katharine Hayhoe: Paul Whitfield Horn Distinguished Professor, Texas Tech University, and Chief Scientist, The Nature Conservancy
  • Anna Maddrick, Legal Analyst, Stop Ecocide International
  • Pratik Patil: Cooperation and Transformative Governance Research Group, International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis
  • Laura Smillie: Policy Analyst, Science for Democracy and Evidence-Informed Policymaking, European Commission

Session assets


  • Katharine Hayhoe, Texas Tech University, United States of America
  • Anna Maddrick, Stop Ecocide International, United Kingdom
  • Pratik Patil, IIASA, Austria
  • Laura Smillie, European Commission, Belgium