Science was once pure, unadulterated, and a source of public entertainment. Entertainment is now driven by celebrity, and choice is everywhere. Yet, many scientists still believe decision-makers will find and use their research to make science-based decisions. However, this is simply not the case. Articles are written in an inaccessible style, and access is often restricted. Thus, the Media acts as a gatekeeper, limiting stories to subjects directly related to human health, brief, feel-good human interest pieces that often include misinterpretations, oversimplifications, or (worse still) fair and balanced 1-1 discussions. Conversely, misinformation produced by those with economic interests is freely available and easy to find and understand. Yet, many scientists still avoid engaging or correcting factual errors in media and policy as this is often seen as Advocacy: impurity in the Ivory Tower existence, despite already advocating for their work when submitting grant proposals and permit applications. Meanwhile, damage is being done. A now-retracted paper linking autism to vaccinations induced a public movement that persists, with real-world implications for outbreak risks. Likewise, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPPC)’s reputation is being actively sabotaged by ‘grassroots’ organisations that are heavily, if not exclusively, funded by Big Oil, delaying appropriate policy action. Many lives are actually at stake. Science is under siege, but hiding inside the Ivory Tower is not the answer. Science budgets are falling with the use of science in management decisions. We must leave the Ivory Tower, or science will perish inside the walls to the detriment of the world around us.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
This problem with representation was well illustrated by “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cjuGCJJUGsg
Of course, it helps if it is also written in a way that they can understand it too. However, no document can influence policy if it remains unseen.
Arnold R (2014) House panel takes hard look at UN climate change process. washingtonexaminer.com. Published online: 27th May 2014. URL: http://washingtonexaminer.com/article/2548950. Accessed 30 Sept 2014
Barlass T (2014) Jane Goodall asks politicians: do you really not care about the future of your great-grandchildren? Sydney Morning Herald. Published online: 1st June 2014. URL: http://www.smh.com.au/environment/climate-change/jane-goodall-asks-politicians-do-you-really-not-care-about-the-future-of-your-greatgrandchildren-20140531-39b08.html#ixzz37aIdbRdk. Accessed 30 Sept 2014
Boykoff MT, Boykoff JM (2007) Climate change and journalistic norms: a case-study of US mass-media coverage. Geoforum 38:1190–1204. doi:10.1016/j.geoforum.2007.01.008
Climate Science Watch (2013) Heartland Institute and its NIPCC report fail the credibility test. Published online: 9th September 2013. URL: http://www.climatesciencewatch.org/2013/09/09/heartland-institute-nipcc-fail-the-credibility-test/. Accessed 11 Jan 2015
Darling ES, Shiffman D, Côté IM, Drew J (2013) The role of Twitter in the life cycle of a scientific publication. Ideas Ecol Evol 6:32–43
Eastwood E (2014) Tweetable abstracts 101. Society for conservation biology videos. URL: http://vimeo.com/98561649. Accessed 5 Jan 2015
Eysenbach G (2011) Can tweets predict citations? Metrics of social impact based on Twitter and correlation with traditional metrics of scientific impact. J Med Internet Res 13:e123. doi:10.2196/jmir.2012
Fine P, Eames K, Heymann DL (2011) “Herd immunity”: a rough guide. Clin Infect Dis 52(7):911–916
Gill N (2014) David Attenborough: changing viewing habits may halt future landmark series. theguardian.com. Published online: 25th April 2014. URL: http://www.theguardian.com/media/2014/apr/25/david-attenborough-tv-landmark-series-life-earth. Accessed 30 Sept 2014
Hardy BW, Gottfried JA, Winneg KM, Jamieson KH (2014) Stephen Colbert’s civics lesson: how Colbert super PAC taught viewers about campaign finance. Mass Commun Soc 17:329–353. doi:10.1080/15205436.2014.891138
Harris G (2010) Journal retracts 1998 paper linking autism to vaccines. nytimes.com. Published online: February 2, 2010 http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/03/health/research/03lancet.html?_r=0. Accessed 30 Sept 2014
Institute for 21st Century Energy (2014) Assessing the impact of potential new carbon regulations in the United States. U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Washington
Jones P (2013) Measles targets and herd immunity. Br J Gen Pract 63(613):403–404. doi:10.3399/bjgp13X670570, Published online 1st August 2013
Klein N (2013) How science is telling us all to revolt. newstatesman.com. Published online: 29th October 2013. URL: http://www.newstatesman.com/2013/10/science-says-revolt. Accessed 30 Sept 2014
Lindstrom M (2012) Brandwashed: tricks companies use to manipulate our minds and persuade us to buy. Kogan Page Ltd, London
Luntz S (2014) Congress tells scientists IPCC climate report “Not Science”. Iflscience.com. Published online: 2nd June 2014. URL: http://www.iflscience.com/environment/congress-tells-scientists-ipcc-climate-report-not-science#hBwABOgsV3TbUswT.99. Accessed 30 Sept 2014
Office of Management and Budget (2013) Fiscal year 2014 budget of the U.S. government. U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington
Olson R (2009) Don’t be such a scientist: talking substance in an age of style. Island Press, Washington
Oreskes N, Conway EM (2010) Merchants of doubt: how a handful of scientists obscured the truth on issues from tobacco smoke to global warming. Bloomsbury Press, New York
Parsons ECM (2013) So you want to be a Jedi? Advice for conservation researchers wanting to advocate for their findings. J Environ Stud Sci 3:340–342
Parsons ECM, Shiffman DS, Darling ES, Spillman N, Wright AJ (2014) How twitter literacy can benefit conservation scientists. Conserv Biol 28:299–301. doi:10.1111/cobi.12226
Sanner S (2014) Chef Jamie Oliver proves his case: McDonald’s ‘pink slime’ meat is deemed ‘Unfit for human consumption’. AATTP.org. Posted online: 31st January 2014. URL: http://aattp.org/chef-jamie-oliver-proves-his-case-mcdonalds-pink-slime-meat-is-deemed-unfit-for-human-consumption/. Accessed 30 Sept 2014
Shiffman D (2014) Seaworld exaggerated its research record. Slate’s animal blog. Published online: 17th June 2014. URL: http://www.slate.com/blogs/wild_things/2014/06/17/seaworld_orca_research_importance_of_captive_killer_whale_studies_was_exaggerated.html. Accessed 30 Sept 2014
Shuai X, Pepe A, Bollen J (2012) How the scientific community reacts to newly submitted preprints: article downloads, twitter mentions, and citations. PLoS One 7:e47523. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0047523
The Editors of The Lancet (2010) Retraction—ileal-lymphoid-nodular hyperplasia, non-specific colitis, and pervasive developmental disorder in children. Published online 2nd February 2010. Lancet. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(10)60175-4
Triggle N (2010) MMR doctor struck from register. news.bbc.co.uk. Published online: 24th May 2010. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/8695267.stm. Accessed 30 Sept 2014
This paper was produced without funding and the author has no conflicts of interest. Thanks are due to Naomi Rose, Dominick DellaSala, and two anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments on earlier versions of this work.
About this article
Cite this article
Wright, A.J. Defending the Ivory Tower against the end of the world. J Environ Stud Sci 5, 66–69 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13412-015-0227-y