2015 GSA Annual Meeting in Baltimore, Maryland, USA (1-4 November 2015)

Paper No. 253-8
Presentation Time: 3:35 PM


VAN HEERDEN, Ivor, Agulhas Ventures, Inc, 260 CAPTAINS WAY, REEDVILLE, VA 22539, exnatalia@aol.com

Science has played a major role in the development of the sophistication of present humankind since humans first realized how to strike two stones together and make fire. Scientists, certainly until the 1990s, were held in high esteem by most of society. However, now a tenth of the way into the twenty-first century, mainstream science is getting a bad rap. The emergence and growth of the ultraconservative media heralded by Fox News, well-funded political lobbying by the fossil fuel industry amongst many other American corporations, and the funding of institutes that can be considered as distorting science (i.e., deliberately misrepresenting facts), have been responsible for a lot of doubt cast on science today, especially that which pits special interests such as big oil companies against groups calling for action with respect to issues such as global warming. Unfortunately, policymakers are often the targets, and ordinary citizens the victims, of faux science (i.e., science that is biased or based on subjectivity

rather than objectivity).

Whistleblowers, because of their inside knowledge, have become crucial to ensuring that science is a source of reliable, repeatable, and precise information, rather than the unrepeatable, imprecise concepts of the naysayers and distortion advocates. Theirs has become a critical role in today’s distortion-riddled world. Academics have to comprehend that their research culture and ideals are under attack and are going to have to find better ways to articulate their science, especially as it relates to public policy decisions. Additionally, faculty at academic institutions need to realize that there is a trend to exclude them from the selection process of upper administration, reflecting the growing influence of big-money donors and, hence, the increasing probability that upper administrators will not be supportive of scientific data that opposes the agendas of the big-money donors. This, then, precipitates further the need for “whistleblowers.” The latter, therefore, need much better protection. Which begs the bigger question; as scientists how are we to deal with these attacks on our profession?