A primary role of policymakers is to serve as the voice of the community they represent. At the federal level, hearing elected officials speak on the House or Senate floor or at a town hall, is one channel citizens use to stay engaged in the issues of the day. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if lawmakers could more often use these forums to tout what the latest scientific and technological advancements are contributing to their community?
Scientists have a lot of data. And with so many high-profile environmental policy issues, ecologists are increasingly faced with turning these data into something that makes sense not only to other scientists but to policymakers and the public. But what we’re learning from these various policy debates is that making sense is only a first step. As we have seen in the climate debate and elsewhere, decision makers often get the science, but they place other topics—the economy, social justice, local culture—ahead of it. More critical, then, is scientists’ ability to make their findings matter, and matter enough.
Picture Your Grant on the Hannity Show: David Inouye on why basic research isn’t a bridge to nowhere
The scientific community celebrated the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), which prioritized US scientific understanding, competitiveness, and capacity by directing $3 billion to the National Science Foundation (NSF), including $2 billion for research and related activities. Part of the reason for the windfall was NSF’s large backlog of unfunded but highly ranked proposals—something that complemented the stimulus act’s emphasis on “shovel-ready” projects.