Rush Holt, a former assistant director of Princeton's Plasma Physics Laboratory who now serves as a Democratic congressman for New Jersey, says that while scientists may remain a minority in Congress for the foreseeable future, there's no reason that scientific thinking shouldn't be more pervasive in governmental decision-making.
"I wish we could get more Americans and, hence, their representatives thinking like scientists, which means basing our conclusions on evidence," he told a group of chemists at Princeton last week, according to Scientific American.
Holt sees climate change as a key area where an evidence-based approach will be crucial to enacting responsible legislation. Likewise, he says there should be a better understanding in the US of the "stimulative effect" of funding basic research.
As Scientific American notes, promoting scientific thinking in decision-making "will require scientists to help communicate what scientific uncertainty means, the realities of probability and statistics, and even the real dividends of investment in research."
"Americans value the fruits of research, but they have hardly a clue how it works," Holt said. "I still like to think that I think like a scientist and I would like to see more of that in Congress."