Scientists’ Perceptions of Objectivity and Advocacy: Making the Linkage of Science to Environmental Policy

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There is no question that science plays a profound role in American public policymaking and that scientists are critical actors in the environmental policymaking process, serving as entrepreneurs, introducing, popularizing, and elevating environmental ideas onto national and international agendas. This article uses interviews with scientists to investigate the complexities of linking science to environmental policy, with special attention given to how scientists view the concepts of advocacy, objectivity, and the separation of science and policy. Because of the importance of scientists to the environmental policymaking process, it is worth exploring what they have to say about linking science to policy. Interviews of scientists in 1997 and again in 2009 illustrate the fact that scientists remain committed to the ideal of objectivity, struggle with the trend toward advocacy by scientists, and are distrustful of the way science is used in the environmental policy-making process.