Meeting Symposium: Scientific Credibility and the Politicization of Science

ASBMB will host a special symposium titled “Scientific Credibility and the Politicization of Science,” sponsored by the society’s Public Affairs Advisory Committee, at the 2011 annual meeting, April 9–13, 2011, in Washington, D.C. The panel will feature Elizabeth H. Blackburn, James J. McCarthy and Michael Specter.


 Blackburn
 McCarthy
 Specter
The “Scientific Credibility and the Politicization of Science" panel will feature Elizabeth H. Blackburn, James J. McCarthy and Michael Specter.

In a perfect world, science is a purely objective endeavor that only seeks to answer questions and uncover facts; it is a discipline that rises above contentious and divisive issues.

Unfortunately, as we know, we do not live in a perfect world.

Just in the past decade alone, science has been front-and-center in several controversial political, religious and socio-economic debates, including the accepted use of embryonic stem cells, the potential effects of genetically modified foods, the teaching of evolution in schools and the validity of climate change data.

However, the trend most troubling for many scientists, particularly evident in the latter two examples, is not only that science more frequently is being exploited and sensationalized, but that it often is misrepresented, misquoted and generally misunderstood.

It’s an issue of incredible concern, and the reason why the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology will host a special symposium titled “Scientific Credibility and the Politicization of Science,” sponsored by the society’s Public Affairs Advisory Committee, at 12:30 p.m. Sunday, April 10, 2011, at the ASBMB annual meeting at the Washington, D.C. Convention Center.

One of the consequences of ignorance of the scientific process is its politicization by those who chose to misrepresent or misuse the results of these processes to their own ends. “The politicization of science is always going to be around to some degree,” notes ASBMB Past-president Bettie Sue Masters, the Robert A. Welch distinguished professor in chemistry at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. “But it’s becoming more and more of a problem at the national and international levels that the credibility of science is being called into question.” This is obvious particularly when certain issues, requiring scientific data and input, have potential political impact.

At least one possible remedy is increased involvement of the scientific community in communicating scientific processes and outcomes so that they are understood by the public at large and not considered diabolical or leading to ominous outcomes. This special symposium hopefully will spur some of that involvement.

Appropriately set within our nation’s capital, this panel discussion will bring together three exemplary individuals who each will share his or her own unique perspective on how science, the media, politics and society interact, and how these different groups all have contributed to the current state of affairs.

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