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I’m opening this as a discussion, taking my lead from a couple of comments made by readers in another thread (Wakefield autism studies slammed as fraud by BMJ, if you really must know).

Carol starts with:

‘[…] It is not usually a good thing when scientists get estranged from the scientific community and go out on their own as activists. In fact I’m struggling to think of an example when it has been a good thing.’

and Michael chips in reply:

‘I would suggest that most activists engage in propaganda of one sort or another. In my opinion the moment a scientist uses propaganda rather than facts in her or his arguments she/he no longer deserves the be called a scientist.
‘But then perhaps after a long tiring day, I’m being a bit harsh :-)’

I’d like to open the comments to anyone’s thoughts.

In particular, what I’m thinking of another related situation: when an active scientist in their own time is activist for some position or cause, for example opposing (aspects of) genetically modified foods, particular treatments for disease and so on.

The reason I raise this is that it blurs the line.

For the person who has clearly left science (or medicine) behind, it’s relatively straight-forward. But what of the person who still has a role in science?

Should they stand down from all advocacy?

At what point does advising or informing others become activism?

I’ll get out of the way* and leave you to it.

(* I have the annual tax summary to finish off…)


Other articles on Code for Life:

Fact or fallacy, a survey of immunisation statements in the print media

Feynman on appreciating things and other stories

Wakefield autism studies slammed as fraud by BMJ

Changing the Ph.D.

“Knowledge is merely opinion.” Storm – in cartoon and words