Epidemiologist Offers Advice To Scientists “Going
concerns about the Trump administration, facts, and
science continue to capture the headlines, scientists are
getting many calls to become more involved in the
political process in the defense of science. As this
appears to be “foreign territory” for many scientists, one
epidemiology colleague has stepped up to offer advice from
public health. Boston University epidemiologist and dean
of the School of Public Health Sandro Galea writes
in a guest blog in Scientific American about four lessons
other engaged scientists should heed.
Changing science takes time. Changing attitudes takes even
Galea uses the example of Semmelweiss and childbed fever
to report that scientific activism is frequently a “slow,
frustrating grind” which requires patience and consistent
is a time for strange bedfellows.
Scientists may need to partner with groups which do
not appear to be natural allies. Galea cites the example
of advertisers as “unnatural allies” who helped change
the thinking about smoking and health.
Using the example of vaccines, Galea suggests that a
positive story about an issue is also needed over and
above the data about the topic of interest. The goal is to
win hearts as well as minds, and stories can help,
according to Galea.
Fundamentally, it is about influencing policy.
To make a difference with data, scientists must work
within the political system while also applying external
pressure such as with protests and marches. Galea believes
that public health exemplifies an engaged, activist
scientific class that can serve to instruct other