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I was reading Stephen Wilcox's latest blog post (http://goo.gl/ul3If) and one line in particular, an aside from the article's main point, caught my attention:

Well, if we live by evidence (and I certainly do, since I’m not running for office), we have to decide: what counts as evidence, when the evidence is adequate, what conclusions follow from what evidence, and so on.

This tension between scientists and politicians has been a running theme, as if the two lived in different worlds. When I asked well-seasoned faculty at my school whether public policy should be considered in the redesign of work systems, they said that it's usually not in the picture because it is out of scope, or because they want to prepare students for what they can control.

Are scientists and academicians responsible for informing and affecting public policy? Should they be?

*Update*
I asked two visiting professors this question today, each from either US coast, and both well into their careers. One, an accomplished economics professor, said, "you have to be clever about promoting your work." The other, a big-name industrial research engineer, said, "there is little grant money for that, so researchers avoid it." The latter professor, the engineer, has served on policy advising committees.
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8 comments
 
not all scientists are atheist though
 
We also don't elect many scientists here in the UK. We did once elect a prime minister with a chemistry degree, but I don't think we've had many research scientists in parliament.

I don't think it's really that people don't want to elect scientists, but rather that scientists are almost never candidates. I imagine that is quite hard to get into politics having spent a decade working hard towards getting a permanent academic position. It might also be that the parties themselves are reluctant to pick a scientist to run in an election, although not nearly the extent that I see over in the US, where being against science seems to be a requirement to be a Republican presidential candidate.
 
Well maybe it doesn't matter how many scientists, but how many educated people who know about science and support it are in the government.
 
I can tell you from the agency level, the actual people who work for government who are not politicians, many of them are in fact well educated on science. I can throw a rock in any direction on first street NE and hit somebody who has some type of graduate degree that is either scientific, mathmatic, or technical. Government employees are very highly educated. So its not people in government, it is people in politics.
The problem is really with some politicians and willful ignorance.
 
+Christine Paluch Great point about there being educated people in government. Perhaps the success of politicians has been their ability to filter (ignore in some cases) the overwhelming data that describes complex economic, environmental, and social systems, and craft stories that actually resonate with the public. So perhaps scientists need to be better at crafting the right stories, or arming politicians with the right stories.
 
+Erin Chiou I mentioned in another post that those who are in the sciences problem is not necessarily language, but of communications strategy and organization. In some ways this may be the result of the insular nature of academia, but also temperament. It is not so much the right stories, scientists can be very eloquent about what they love. That is a big reason I loved working with them when I worked on science and public policy issues.

I can probably write an somewhat long essay in response to what you just put forth. But I really suggest looking through some of my posts on the subject.
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