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How to Win a 'War'

In a Scientific American guest blog this week, California Academy of Sciences Executive Director Jonathan Foley and author Christine Arena write that there are some steps scientists and concerned citizens can take to fight back against what some perceive to be a "War on Science" launched by the Trump administration.

"President Trump's decision to constrain and muzzle scientific research signals an important milestone. The War on Science has shifted into high gear. This is a fight for our future, and scientists as well as citizens had better prepare for what is coming next," say Foley and Arena.

They note that new EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has already started using the language of science skepticism, such as calling the veracity of climate change research into question. This type of language can breed uncertainty about established scientific fact, which can in turn affect anything from food safety to disease and drug research. To fight back against this trend, Foley and Arena make suggestions for five actions concerned scientists and citizens can take: "portray an inclusive vision; do get political; don't fall into the 'culture war' trap; balance facts with meaningful stories; be forceful."

Science supporters "must articulate a very clear choice about the future that all Americans can relate to," Foley and Arena write, hearkening back to President John F. Kennedy's call to accelerate space research in the 1960s. Scientists also have to dive into politics, even if it goes against years of tradition to stay out of the political arena, and even if it makes them uncomfortable, they further note, adding that researchers should stay away from "culture war" debates on faith versus science. They must also aim to bolster their data with stories, as the great atronomer Carl Sagan was known for doing. And finally, Foley and Arena suggest, "let’s not sugar coat the significance of this war. It is something to be hard won…. It's time to call out merciless greed and ignorance. The short-term gains of a few corporations and individuals must no longer rise above our national interests, our long-term economic competitiveness, and most importantly, our individual safety, health and wellbeing."