Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Advocacy and (social) science

There is an excellent blog post by Daniel Lende from the Neuroanthropology Blog on "Science, Social Science, and Politics". It is an answer to  a piece in Nature, written by Daniel Sarewitz, "Science must be seen to bridge the political divide". It is an exciting discussion about the role of (social) science in the politicized climate debate. Alarmed by the open support of Nobel laureates for President Obama, Sarewitz argues that science has to remain bipartisan and neutral in this debate; otherwise, the Republican side would (as so often before) only claim the politicization of science in order to undermine consensus on climate change. For the same reasons, he also seems willing to sacrifice social sciences.
Sarewitz writes:

As scientists seek to provide policy-relevant knowledge on complex, interdisciplinary problems ranging from fisheries depletion and carbon emissions to obesity and natural hazards, the boundary between the natural and the social sciences has blurred more than many scientists want to acknowledge.
With Republicans generally sceptical of government’s ability and authority to direct social and economic change, the enthusiasm with which leading scientists align themselves with the Democratic party can only reinforce conservative suspicions that for contentious issues such as climate change, natural-resource management and policies around reproduction, all science is social science.
The US scientific community must decide if it wants to be a Democratic interest group or if it wants to reassert its value as an independent national asset. 

But Daniel Lende sees here some problems, especially concerning the role of social sciences.  Are here social sciences "thrown under the bus", too, in order to not incite the conservatives?
Take your time and go through this discussion in detail. As an anthropologist, I mostly go with Lende; in any case, this is a great start for a long over-due debate about the roles of science, social science and interdisciplinarity. Here again the link to the Lende post.


@ReinerGrundmann said...

This is an important debate, no doubt about it. My intuitive reaction was to support Sarewitz but I can see the shortcomings in his position. He uses a tactical argument of efficiency, saying that if you want to achieve something in the US you need the support of both big parties. This is a recognition of a political fact (which not everyone gets) and therefore a good starting point, However, one cannot stop there.

Sarewitz is too defensive about the social sciences, in fact the sciences are becoming more like the social sciences (in that complexities and value questions creep in and make the old view about straightforward experimental verification/falsification of scientific theories obsolete). This point needs to be made and several approaches have done so, not least the Postnormal Science discussed frequently on this blog.

However, if scientists (or social scientists) want to be trusted they have to abstain from certain behaviour. Nobel laureates rallying for ‘the good cause’ contribute to this. Engaging in politics and politicizing science is an example. Does Sarewitz believe individual scientists should therefore restrain their advocacy? In my view this would go a step too far. But I would agree that it becomes problematic where scientific communities declare their political allegiances.

The political task is to unite political decision makers on crucial issues and not to use science to split them (while feeling good and superior over the ‘dumb’ conservative opponents) . How is this possible? Sarewitz tries to 'engineer' an answer, Lende does not seem to see the point. We probably need more input from political scientists but where are they? (Well, the eminent Theda Skocpol has made a recent intervention along these lines, emphasizing some political realities).

Finally, performative contradictions are inevitable in this business of argumentation. The snake of reflexivity bites everyone in the back and Lende is no exception.

MikeR said...

I don't see a problem with individual scientists declaring their support for a particular candidate. But signing a letter as "Nobel Prize scientists", claiming that one party is better than another, and based on their status as great scientists? How could that not drive members of the other party away from them? Isn't it obvious that that is bad for the cause of science?

Mathis Hampel said...


These letters are of course somewhat problematic but maybe Sarewitz' 'world view' is more a personal reflection. Isn't it possible that of all the publics the ones who have lost trust in science are primarily the students of science. May that partly explain Sarewitz' discomfort with these letters? Has he lost trust in people's trust in scientists and science.

Werner Krauss said...

No doubt, Daniel Sarewitz makes his point in the heated American science-politics landscape; it is as much a statement about culture as it is one about science. (Is it possible to speak about science in a non-cultural way, by the way?)

But anyway, to say that science should stay apolitical, is a political statement itself. Especially before the background that Republicans consider social sciences as political, and Sarewitz does not contradict.

From the perspective of a social scientist this simply means to accept that you get less funded, that in interdisciplinary projects everyone has to play according to the scientists' rules, and so on. On both sides of the Atlantic, this is the old and the new normal. End of discussion.

But of which discussion? The one that we discuss here ever since Klimazwiebel exists: what about the politicization of science and the scientification of politics - did science discover this mechanism? And why do we disagree about climate change - does science know? And what do people really think about science - aren't maybe scientists' the only ones who believe that science tells truth, independently of power, influences and lobby-ism? Without the social sciences, we wouldn't know anything about the cultural history of science and of climate, too.

This is where Lende brings the concept of interdisciplinarity into discussion (alongside the one of bipartisanship): science and social sciences are bedfellows; the process of science and its objects, such as Climate, have social and cultural histories; science is a cultural technique and a social practice. We haven't even really started yet to understand these connections - but without, science gets lost in ever more Climategates and other social "accidents".

Thus, is it really clever to sacrifice social sciences in order to please the Republicans? And does it really make sense to re-establish the belief into the old myth that science is speaking truth to power?

I am sure this is not the intention of Daniel Sarewitz; but reading his comment through the lens of social sciences, as Daniel Lende does, these questions come up, necessarily.

Mark B. said...

@ Werner

" Especially before the background that Republicans consider social sciences as political, and Sarewitz does not contradict."

This isn't a matter of what Republicans 'consider.' Those who do social science in the United States see themselves as doing ideological battles. One doesn't do a study of the effects of sexism in employment to show that it doesn't exist. This is not a matter of debate. Academic social science in the United States is a leftist enterprise. People chose to go into social science today so that they can advocate for political change. There is no perception problem here - the Republicans are right. You may as well suggest that the Guardian editorial policy is politically neutral.

The truth is, it is not difficult to recognize political prejudices in 'scientific' policy pronouncements. When the 'science' just happens to correlate 99% with political ideology, we can have confidence that we are not mistaken in seeing the latter within the former.

bernie said...

Trust,credibility and objectivity are fragile things.
Consider person A who knows more about Y than person B. Person A asserts that statement Z is true. Person B looks at statement Z and based on his personal knowledge and observations sees statement Z as less clearly true or in fact not true. How is person B likely to view person A's statements about other areas including those related to topic Y?
Now consider the above when person A is a scientist, doctor, social scientist, politician or spouse. Recalling Claude Rains in Casablanca - one should try very hard to avoid being identified as a usual suspects.

@ReinerGrundmann said...

Mark B

would you consider economics as a social science? If so, where is the leftist bias?

Historically, sociology was a rather conservative discipline, preoccupied with social order (and a bit of social reform). Marx was the exception rather than the rule.

The examples you describe are all part of a social reform agenda. And they seem to be partially successful, see Obama's mentioning of gay rights.

The same strategy seems to be followed by climate scientists (on either side), trying to lobby government. Republicans 'forget' that sceptics participate in the same ideological battles.

The motivation of many young people who want to change the world today is to study earth sciences, not sociology. I think this is the background to what we are discussing here.

Activism by members of the scientific community is granted by freedom of speech but we know little how effective its various manifestations are.

bernie said...

For me the issue is not activism per se, but whether the claims are open for discussion and verification. The scientific method and scientific practice, in the past, gave scientists more of the benefit of the doubt when they made science-related assertions, certainly more benefits of the doubt than granted to politicians when they made political assertions. Activism undermines that credibility by its nature especially since the likelihood of a confirmation bias is dramatically increased. Of course, the more we learn about actual scientific practices the more skeptical I become of all assertions made by scientists - though they remain marginally more credible than politicians, political activists, lawyers, social scientists, journalists and members of the clergy. This loss of credibility is one of the consequences of revelations of behind the scenes discussions among climate scientists afforded by the climategate emails.

Werner Krauss said...

@ Mark B

I think your position is perfectly legitimate. But you have to go through the door with the "politics" sign and not the one with "science". Not the researcher who tries to help victims of sexism is political; you act political when you first question the existence of, for example, rape or other forms of sexual harassment in employment.
Same with those who study racism, social inequality, international relations, environmental pollution and so on: those who question the existence of these phenomena argue political. The others do what scientists do: they conduct research and in doing so, they sometimes serve society, help people or help to understand problems. (And yes, sometimes, they turn political in making up the existence of facts which don't exist - this happens everywhere, also in sciences).

For the rest, please have a look at my answer to bernie.


You still hope that science will solve political questions. But simply opposing science and politics does not work; credibility has something to do with your personality and how you communicate, not with "truth" or being part of science or politics. Lende is very good here:

"Scientists often try to promote one rhetorical approach within their field (theory, uncertainty, questioning), and try to present another model of science for public consumption (truth, independence). But do they really think people are so naïve that they don’t pick up on this? " -

Credibility depends on the openness how you address problems. This is true for politicians, scientists, and ordinary citizens. The art of making good decisions maybe depends of the right questions: maybe it is better for the citizen to ask the scientists about the physics of climate change and the politician about the possibilities to introduce climate legislations, than the other way round. Social sciences can tell you a lot about these differences, where they come from and how to deal with problems against this background.

In the end, we have to make up our own decision - this is true for all of us, by the way, including scientists, politicians, ordinary citizens and social scientists.

bernie said...

You say that I "still hope that science will solve political questions." I am not sure how you came to that conclusion from what I have written so far - it certainly attributes to me a naivete that is unflattering to say the least. Using the plain meaning of the terms, if a question is identified as a "political" question then by definition there will need to be a political answer not a scientific one. But surely there are many questions that are not simply "political" questions in that those involved in making the decision develop their positions based on what they assume are the relevant facts. As I tried to say above,taken as a group, scientists' claims as to statements of fact, until recently, were more likely to have been treated as accurate and unbiased than assertions of facts by other groups. When scientists, as individuals, become explicitly involved in political decisions, the presumption of the accuracy of their statements of facts is diminshed. Those of us familair with the history of science and the behaviors of individual scientists, recognize that it is not the character of the individual scientists that affords them this presumption of credibility, but the supposed rigor and vigor of the scientific methods that presumes that claims of fact are based on verifiable and repeatable methods. As I said before, climategate made it obvious that in the field of climate science the rigor and vigor of the scientific process could no longer be presumed. Scientists were shown to be as petty and as manipulative as the rest of us and as ready to "spin" the facts as any marketing pro.
Where I think we differ is in your definition of credibility. You say: "credibility has something to do with your personality and how you communicate, not with "truth" or being part of science or politics." Clearly, as you say, credibility has something to do with personality, how someone communicates and openness, but are you really suggesting that credibility has nothing to do with the truth content of statements and presumptions around how the facts are established? We have lots of surveys that ask respondents to rank professions in terms of their trustworthiness or admiration. This Australian survey ( has doctors and engineers near the top, professors near the middle, politicians, union leaders and journalists, i.e., activists, are towards the bottom.

Werner Krauss said...


sorry for misunderstanding your argument, and thanks for clarifying!

@ReinerGrundmann said...

In a new development, loosely connected to the problem discussed above, Andrew Montford has published a comment on his blog Bishop Hill. He is highly suspicious of academics engaging in advocacy (or activism, as he calls it). He does not like the idea that researchers are paid to sell their ideas to the public, or worse, to try to change people's ideas.

The context of this argument is not the US but the UK. In the US, Sarewitz, Lende, and others address the problem of what kind of intervention by research makes sense, is effective, or practical (see the discussion above). The legitimacy of such activism is not questioned. Montford does exactly this and thereby overshoots the mark, by far.

The UK situation is different to the US. The British government has established policies which provide strong incentives to researchers to show their utility to society. There are various programmes (including social science research) that are aimed at changing people's behaviours (e.g. to become more energy saving). I am not a great friend of this approach, to put it mildly. However, to call for scientists to forego funding opportunities provided by government is naive. But Montford does not stop here. He thinks that any attempt by researchers to try to change people's ideas is illegitimate. One wonders why he is running his blog.

If you don’t believe me, read the blogpost. Here are the first three paragraphs (The post comes under the headline The Edge of the Academy):

"Yesterday I had an interesting exchange of views with various members of staff at the University of Nottingham over the limits to academia. At what point does someone teeter on the brink between legitimate academic research and political activism?

I am uncomfortable with the idea of marketing as an academic specialism full stop. I seems to me to be hard to justify taxpayers having to cough up their hard earned cash so that academics can try to find ways of selling them things. Are we really happy with the man who sweeps the floor in the widget factory keeping middle-class boffins in this way?

However, there are situations that are worse still. Work aimed at changing other people's views on any particular issue is entirely illegimate."

The bottom line seems to be: climate activism from climate scientists is bad, far worse are social scientists who try to convince others of something through their work.

He does not seem to realize that he attacks freedom of speech, which also applies to social scientists, and everyone else in society. And isn't the point of many discussions between people trying to change the view (or behavior) of someone else?

Paul Matthews said...

Your remarks
"He thinks that any attempt by researchers to try to change people's ideas is illegitimate. One wonders why he is running his blog"
and "he attacks freedom of speech"
suggests you do not really appreciate Andrew Montford's point of view.

What he objects to is academics using funding from taxpayers for their own advocacy or activism. Only he can really answer the question of why he runs his blog (which of course is not publicly funded) but drawing attention to what he sees as abuse of public funds may be one reason. The blog is more concerned with promoting free speech than attacking it - it is the relentless biased activism of Adam Corner's blog that is anti-free speech.

It seems there is a big gulf of misunderstanding between those with a physical science background and those from the social sciences field. The latter often do not seem to be aware that a fundamental requirement in hard science is that research must be conducted from an objective balanced viewpoint.

Hans von Storch said...

Maybe I missed the point of this thread - but I think the issue of activism among publicly employed scientists is what needs more attention.
First, I would not say that scientists should try to educate people in favor of a certain lifestyle. Lifestyle is a personal issue, which is, however, limited by publicly and politically agreed on rules, so-called laws. As a consequence, the spectrum of preferred life styles in China is different from the spectrum in the US.

Second, publicly employed scientists are employed because they perform a certain service for the society, which is paying them for this service. If society wants to have ethical steering by scientists, be it so - often such servants are called priests and pastors, and they are payed for, among others, to preach. [However, they must preach certain religious constructions, such as Christian or Buddhist, for instance.] In certain societies such servants are also obliged to support certain state-preferred views and values. In democratic societies, this is usually not so; instead they are supposed to construct knowledge with the scientific method, following good scientific practice, often kind of Merton rules.

"Freedom of speech" - sure, but in one's professional capacity? Let's consider another example - military servants. In earlier days, it was normal that important guys in uniforms would tell the civilians what is right to do. Soemt times ago so in Greece and in Turkey for example, where colonels and generals thought they would know better for society, because they knew better about how to use canons. Generals are highly qualified professionals (not all), as scientists are (not all) - but with a very narrow field of expertise (Fachidioten). When leaving their field of expertise they present just common understanding. Do we want generals to use their competence in defending the home country as proof for capability of defining a countries policy? Now, replace "general" by "scientist", and "in defending the home country" by "numerically integrating the quasi-geostrophic equation".

I do not want that. I appreciate generals and scientists in their clarification of issues, but the responsibility and decision should be dealt with according to the democratic rules, which implies that the persons, who are generals and scientists, take part in the public discourse, but only after having taken down the uniforms and lab coats - as everybody else.

What is the difference between a general asserting that an attack on Iran is needed, because otherwise nuclear catastrophe is almost certain, and a scientists, who claims that the 2 degree goal must be meet, because otherwise climate catastrophe threatens? Both are qualified professionals.

Werner Krauss said...


here some questions:

you write: "Lifestyle is a personal issue, which is, however, limited by publicly and politically agreed on rules, so-called laws."

Is this really part of your expertise as a climate scientist? In my expertise as a social scientist, this assumption is plain wrong, as your statement about the differences in life styles between China and the US is plain nonsense - sorry for that. (Just consider the role of the fashion brand H&M concerning "personal" lifestyles in East and West, for example).

Next, you write:
"Second, publicly employed scientists are employed because they perform a certain service for the society, which is paying them for this service."

This statement contradicts your own rule which says that climate scientist are experts on climate and NOT experts in social theory. And again, I am really sorry: As a social scientist, I reject this assumption, too. That's not how it works, the relation between society and science is much more complex. For example, scientists are part of the society which pays them; and knowledge and its production is not a simple consumer article or a simple "service". Furthermore, some elements of society - for example, big industry - have more influence on what science does than others, right?

And concerning the relation between generals and societies: I guess generals in Turkey or in Greece, in Cuba or in the US know a little more than only about shooting. In each case, you have to analyze the historical situation to make a qualified statement about the role of generals or scientists - they always act in specific contexts. I guess, there were and maybe will be situations where generals save democracy, for example.

And finally, even a "Fachidiot" like Einstein felt entitled to argue against the nuclear bomb, even though he did not study social sciences or nuclear medicine or politics (according to your definition). But anyway, he was right to intervene, don't you think?

In my opinion, a scientist should make clear when she talks as an expert on her field, and when she shares her thoughts about the social implications of what she does, for example. This makes sense to me. But those general assumptions do not work well for me.

Werner Krauss said...


oh, again I was so "German" and listed only those arguments I did not agree with; and I totally forgot to mention where I absolutely agree with you, which is your summary:

"I appreciate generals and scientists in their clarification of issues, but the responsibility and decision should be dealt with according to the democratic rules, which implies that the persons, who are generals and scientists, take part in the public discourse, but only after having taken down the uniforms and lab coats - as everybody else."

@ReinerGrundmann said...

I don't know what "numerically integrating the quasi-geostrophic equation" means but you have to bear in mind that Montford was lashing out against social scientists, not climate scientists. To get a feeling for the atmosphere he created on his blog, have a look here

I felt this was such a gross misrepresentation and ignorance towards the social sciences (and psychology in particular) that I intervened (around post 50), despite the fact that I do not agree with the approach taken by the psychologist. The reaction of the commentators bordered on the uncivilized. The post I linked to in my previous comment was a follow up on Montford's site Bishop Hill. Where he went over the top with his claims about “activism”.

I remember we had several discussions here on Klimazwiebel about the legitimacy of advocacy, and I always made it clear that in no way the model of honest brokering should be seen as silencing individual scientists from speaking out. What I saw as problematic was the assumption of some climate scientists that they had special access to the truth and to decision making and could thus circumvent democratic decision making. Besides, they were the people with the wrong expertise when it comes to making decisions about policies and their implementation. If you want knowledge input from academia, it has to be social scientific.

Maybe we need to clarify the terms we refer to. Is advocacy the same as "activism"? If not, where is the difference? I treat them as synonymous in the current discussion.

You say you "do not want" authority persons to use their position to pronounce on important matters (as they are paid by the public and are serving the nation). But how would you prevent them from doing so? And what do you say to those people who say that such figures have a moral duty to engage?

Going by your own rules you should never have given interviews or set up this blog.

I follow Roger Pielke Jr who coined the term ‘honest broker’ when he says: “Scientists have a choice concerning what role they should play in political debates and policy formation, particularly in terms of how they present their research. This book is about understanding this choice, what considerations are important to think about when deciding, and the consequences of such choices for the individual scientist and the broader scientific enterprise. Rather than prescribing what course of action each scientist ought to take, the book aims to identify a range of options for individual scientists to consider in making their own judgments about how they would like to position themselves in relation to policy and politics.”

hvw said...


I mostly agree, but it seems you also still miss a chunk of the fundamental problem here, when you say:

In my opinion, a scientist should make clear when she talks as an expert on her field, and when she shares her thoughts about the social implications of what she does, for example.

Because I believe in a large set of problems, it is not possible to separate the cold, hard, objective facts from normative considerations, where the scientist/expert necessarily can't claim more authority than you and me.

Examples [all that very simplified]:
1) Climate scientist considering heat waves, the definition which rests on the question what she considers important: excess deaths (Tmin at night), energy demand (cooling degree days (CDD)), agricultural impacts (probably some plant dependent threshold), and so on.

2) Hydrologist considering drought: stream ecology (discharge), agricultural impact (soil moisture deficit), hydropower impact (reservoir depletion)

3) Environmental chemist concerned with persistent organic pollutants: long-range transport (environmental justice), persistence (intergenerational justice), just toxicity (ignore the "justice" concepts above), ...

In order to communicate all the normative choices that shape(d) the research, the recipient would need to become an expert himself (and the researcher would have to be conscious about all these choices herself in the first place).

This state of affairs, for me, is a typical property of "post-normal" problems. At least that is what I read into Ravetz, when he still wrote stuff that made sense to me.

Demanding that scientists should stick to their differential equations and under no circumstances claim more than average authority about what they actually mean, strikes me as embarrassingly simplistic.

Werner Krauss said...


thanks for your comment. Yes, I agree, your examples are convincing and my own conclusion was indeed "embarrassingly simplistic".

By the way, Lende has a nice take on how the public perceives science:

"Sarewitz also misdiagnoses how science is viewed by the public. He has a view from the inside, of the beauty and power of science. From the outside, at best it’s “really smart people who sometimes act like know-it-all’s.” At worst, it’s “arrogant pricks who want to control the world.” I mean, kids’ cartoons are full of this stuff. The evil scientist who wants to rule the world.

So, science as independent in the eyes of the public? That bus left the station a long time ago. Sure, it’s one way to interpret science. But there are plenty other ways available to discerning and non-discerning people alike."

As long as debates are "hot" and science is post-normal, there is almost no way to be "bipartisan" or "neutral" or whatever. And maybe people even don't expect scientists to be so. It is much easier to decipher the scientific content when a scientist openly shows whether she is a skeptic or not, for example. You can read the message "against" this background - something we do all the time, for example when we read newspapers or watch TV.

hvw said...


The problem is clear, its the irreducible mixup between scientific authority + hard facts, and useful interpretations with a normative (value laden) component that somehow should be considered in a democratic fashion but can't, because they can't be separated from the super-specialized expertise. Right?

Now you spell out what I also think could be a way to deal with this (I guess). No matter how "scientific" the problem is, once the decision is democratic, it's is not the hardness of the evidence, but the trust of the populace in the respective experts that wins (+ ideological camps of course). So a strategy would be to encourage experts to come forward with their interpretations, well informed personal opinions, ideological propaganda and policy recommendations. In an ideal democracy, people will be able to judge the expert's motives and capabilities correctly (in any case better than the respective sets of differential equations), as long as not only the "activated" speak out and there is a large enough sample of expert's voices. And honestly, for my tax-money I would expect a C4-prof. in a relevant field to publish a policy relevant piece at least bi-annually in a nationwide newspaper. We don't afford these experts to only polish the inside of their ivory towers.

Hans von Storch said...

It seems that you as a "social scientist" know that my statement "the spectrum of preferred life styles in China is different from the spectrum in the US." Is wrong, or in other words: the assertion "the spectrum is equal" is true. Correctly understood? Or what did you mean?

Where do you know that from? Have you studied the way "Chinese" live?

Are you sure that you understand the terminology as I do? Do we talk about the issue?

What where your questions, whic h you beg an your comment with?

Which part of social science do you claim to be an expert on? How should I had to formulate my views so that it is clear that I am not an expert (which I am not)?

What do you think about our (klimazwiebel's) rrecommendation of first thinking and then posting?

Hans von Storch said...

Hvw - who is the"we" you are referring to? For whom do you speak, with which legitimacy? Would you mind if others think differently? Reading Reimar Lüst's interview, one could presume that there are other views (

Which are the "relevant fields" F, how many professors P (why only C4 or W3?) are there? How large is 2*F*P? Are there other groups who should "at least bi-annually in a nationwide newspaper"? Would BILD qualify, but Hamburger Morgenpost not?

Hans von Storch said...

Reiner, you ask about the terms "advocacy" and "activism". The latter I associate with "similarly directed activity of many people" such as occupy. Advocacy, on the other and, can be something in back rooms, for instance by corporate actors, but also a climate scientist talking with Angela Merkel's husband over a beer. Thus, I would say, two phenomena often associated, but not always.

Werner Krauss said...


Sarewitz argued that scientists should remain bi-partisan and neutral in the climate debate; Daniel Lende answered that social sciences are "thrown under the bus", too, in Sarewitz' statement - because Sarewitz argues that Republicans consider social sciences per se as leftist and biased.

My critique of your statement was that you also try to separate the scientific from the social - same as Sarewitz. I wanted to show that your statement is already based on social concepts, such as when you define "lifestyle" as a private affair. (For example, to buy an Apple computer is not only a private lifestyle decision; it is something more, be it in China or in Germany. Buying an Apple makes you feel like making an individual lifestyle decision, which is something different.)

Thus, I go with Daniel Lende's suggestion that science and social science are "bedfellows"; I suggest not to "purify" the scientific from the social, but to get into control of the social in the scientific statement you make. To be aware that you always enter the realm of the social when you speak to the public. (The social is an integral part of the climate, for example, and it is an integral part of the act of speaking).

I personally, have no problems with scientists reasoning about the consequences of their scientific findings (which are, as hvw pointed out, also based on normative assumptions). I only have problems when scientists kick out the social in their statements and pretend to speak "truth" or "pure science" to the public. There is no information without social content. I consider myself able to "read" or understand the scientific content of a scientist's statement against the backdrop of his opinion. (The main problem is here Roger Pielke's 'stealth advocate', I guess).

I hope this clarifies what the debate is about, and the point I wanted to make.

(By no means, I wanted to be impolite, sorry. Let's blame it on the English language; to master a new argument in a foreign language is like....difficult, to say the least).

hvw said...

Hans von Storch,

"Which are the "relevant fields" F, how many professors P (why only C4 or W3?) ... Would BILD qualify, but Hamburger Morgenpost not?"

I see, you are already working out the details of my proposal :).

But seriously. You appear angry. Because you feel personally attacked by the mention of your salary-class? (no idea whether it really is it).

The contrary is true! You, personally, set a positive example, with respect to the criticism I pass on an unspecified number of your colleagues. Your media presence is certainly at the upper end of the spectrum. And you talk, perceived of course in the role of a very senior scientist, not only about your field, but also present personal opinions, thoughts and prognoses in areas where your professional credentials don't give you special authority, where you are a layperson. This takes some guts, I very much appreciate it, whether I agree in the end or not. Heck, I just pre-ordered your new book.

The funny thing is, though, you seem to take issue with other climate scientists doing essentially the same thing, i.e. talk as a public figure associated with scientific credentials about their personal thoughts on topics of their concern, e.g. climate policy, which are backed by none of their research and only count as a layperson's educated private opinion.

Dennis Bray said...

After reading Lende and Sarewitz, it seems that neither of them are talking about social science but more about science as a social institution (social activity) and scientists as social actors.
Neither seem to have an understanding of what social science is. Social science does not equal partisanship and activisim. According to Webters, social science is the scientific study of the stuctures and functions of society, of which, science itself is a part.
How can lende make the asserstion 'That is where the danger lies - that science could actually become like social science" without an understanding of what social science is.