If you want something done right, do it yourself

Part 3 of 3 in the series “Get to know your fry-entists”

Many scientists believe that advocacy  is not our proper role. They claim that scientists should instead focus on gathering data and solving scientific problems, and should leave advocacy to others. According to some, publicly advocating a position runs the risk of discrediting a scientist, discrediting a discovery and possibly even discrediting science itself. While I respect the opinions and concerns of my peers, I strongly disagree with them. At least with respect to my discipline of shark conservation biology, our worthy goals are doomed to failure without scientist-advocates.

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Tweeting Armageddon

Ok, it wasn’t really armageddon, but the twitter feed from today’s port incident was priceless.

It began with a few tweets by @SFriedScientist

SFriedScientist – Morehead Port is closed due to nine containers being punctured; inside are highly explosive materials know as PETN.

SFriedScientist – Why in the hell are there nine containers of pentaerythritol tetranitrate sitting in my port?

SFriedScientist – and for that matter how the hell did they get left in a position for nine of them to be punctured?

SFriedScientist – Pentaerythritol tetranitrate (PETN) is one of the most powerful high explosives known, with a relative effectiveness factor of 1.66.

SFriedScientist – The XTX8003 extrudable explosive, used in the W68 and W76 nuclear warheads, is a mixture of 80% PETN and 20% of Sylgard 182

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Responsibility to creatures great and small

Part 2 of 3 in the series “get to know your fry-entists”

It’s easy to assume that the graphs and tables produced by scientists for use in policy briefs are meant to speak for themselves and that it’s the legislator’s job to interpret the data and make appropriate decisions as a result of the knowledge.  In such realms, knowledge is power and more data distributed among scientifically literate legislators is the gold standard. I’m not disagreeing with that statement – it is a gold standard. However, the scientifically literate legislature is as yet still a dream and therefore translators are a necessary part of the picture in the life of a scientific study. One then asks whether that translation is more accurate when performed by a third party who’s sole job is to communicate scientific findings or by the scientists who produced the work themselves.  Which brings us back to the question of the week – to what degree does a scientist play the advocate?

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The Data Speak

Part 1 of 3 in the Series “Get to know your fry-entists”

It is impossible for a biologist, ecologist, environmental scientist not to think about conservation. The problems our planet is facing are so concrete, so quantifiable, so visible that to ignore them would be to betray the very thing we’ve dedicated our lives to studying. I always chuckle when scientists are portrayed as cold, calculating, and heartless, when the truth is that they’re more committed to understanding their system than any one else. Science is a labor of passion and scientists dig deeply into the inner workings of their world.

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