November 2010

Meeting Symposium: Scientific Credibility and the Politicization of Science

With the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology annual meeting being held in Washington D.C. this year, there never has been a better time to participate in science advocacy. If you are planning on attending, be sure to get in touch with the ASBMB public affairs staff Geoffrey Hunt or Benjamin Corb to try and arrange a meeting with your congressional representatives. Congressmen always are interested in hearing from their constituents. Whether you want to spend a whole day or just a few minutes on Capitol Hill, your willingness to speak on behalf of science will provide volume to the community’s collective voice, and will continue to strengthen our position in promoting scientific issues.

Importantly, a discussion of what scientists can do to communicate their message more effectively and restore their credibility also will take place.

The panel will feature Elizabeth H. Blackburn, the Morris Herztein professor of biology and physiology in the department of biochemistry and biophysics at the University of California, San Francisco and the recipient of the 2009 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine; James J. McCarthy, the Alexander Agassiz professor of biological oceanography at Harvard University and past-president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and Michael Specter, an award-winning author and science, technology and public health writer for The New Yorker.

All three panelists have ample personal experience in various aspects of scientific credibility and the politicization of science, which should make for an exciting and thoughtful discussion. Blackburn, for example, was appointed by George W. Bush to his President’s Council on Bioethics in 2001 but later was dismissed controversially in 2004, to the anger of many scientists, based on her support for embryonic stem cell research.

McCarthy also is no stranger to the world of policy, serving as chairman of the board for the Union of Concerned Scientists and having worked closely on two recent international panels dealing with climate change. For the past two decades, McCarthy has worked as an author, reviewer and as a co-chair on the Nobel Peace Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Specter is intimately familiar with the subject of people rejecting scientific truths in favor of comfortable fictions, as it is the focus of his recent book, “Denialism: How Irrational Thinking Hinders Scientific Progress, Harms the Planet and Threatens Our Lives.” In addition to his position at The New Yorker magazine, he has contributed to the New York Times and the Washington Post.

Click here to read the 2011 annual meeting thematic overviews.

For information on  annual meeting registration, housing and abstract submission, click here.

“All of us on the Public Affairs Advisory Committee are thrilled to have assembled such a great panel to discuss this timely topic at our meeting,” says Masters. “We believe this special event can help get our members and other scientists more engaged in communicating their work to the public, so we would encourage everyone who is able to attend.”

Nick Zagorski ( is a science writer at ASBMB.


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