Forums and meetings of local self-government have become the most important fields of scientific battles. During the first year and a half of the pandemic, when I and many others practically participated in meetings of the local district council and education council, the misinformed group appeared in person and dominated the public comment section of these forums. The savage conspiracy theories of the group members remained out of control as this noisy minority put pressure on elected officials to go against conventional science. They have continuously called for the dismissal of our top local health officials. We were naive to believe that these efforts would not suffer.
In October 2021, my local Harford County Health Board, Maryland, ceased operations senior health officer, David Bishay, from his post. At first I didn’t understand how a board of health professionals might think he was doing a bad job. He monitored science throughout the pandemic, worked with schools and even started new initiatives in our county.
Then I learned that according to our district code, our health council is actually our district council, which plays under a different name. It currently consists of seven people, including a semolina carver, a special investigator, a fire chief, an insurance salesman, a real estate agent, a farmer and a financial advisor. While these are all wonderful professions, I’m not sure they have the experience in public health to make decisions that affect the health of my community.
Instead of basing their decision on science, they based it on a high-profile minority of residents and the gross misinformation they expressed. Bisha, a health official who should and should have taken us through the worst pandemic sacrificed as political capital. Our community has suffered for this.
He is among more than 500 US health officials who were either fired or fired from his post for the past two years. Although many of these people are appointees, they fall into the midst of local guerrilla political struggles. We, the citizens of this country, have paid the price through a prolonged pandemic and a million people who have died from COVID. In this year of by-elections, we need politicians to believe that their work depends on the votes of scientists, the professional public, and for that we need more scientists to become politically active, even if science is inherently apolitical.
Despite the fact that the movement of extreme anti-science is directly to blame for this problem, the main question is: why don’t we, scientists, get up immediately and defend our professions? Is this our stereotypical isolation? Are we afraid of confrontation? Or is it a consequence of our own pride – that we are to know are we right and so everyone else just needs a ride? It is unethical to allow politics to influence the way science is explained, but is it not as unethical to allow science to be misrepresented to the public?
My fellow scientists, we need to change the way we communicate with the public, and we need to get more involved. Most Americans believe this scholars should be involved not only in gathering facts but also in policy-makingand at the federal level we do that.
However, we tend to forget that evaluation seven million American scientists and engineers can make a much bigger impact closer to home. We need to be much more active in the personal and virtual forums we have traditionally avoided, such as local council meetings and education councils. We can’t just watch these meetings; we need to talk in the protocol.
About 86 percent Americans get news from a digital source, and many of these sources have a comment section. Studies have shown that the comments section may have a bigger impact than the article itself. Although many platforms have tried to implement fact-oriented bots or other methods of combating misinformation, such strategies primarily influence the many conspiracy theories that are spreading. This forum needs our strong counter-arguments based on scientific facts.
The health crisis caused by the pandemic has shown the importance of smart voices based on factual information in local political arenas. We all watched at these meetings videos of angry citizens protesting against masks, vaccines and even the existence of a pandemic. It was even deceived Saturday night live.
It is important to recognize that leaders across the political spectrum will pursue different policies after interpreting (or ignoring) a number of facts. This is expected and understandable. However, if we do not start these discussions with the same facts, it is impossible to discuss strategies and build policies in good faith. If our leaders believe that their work depends on the voices of a misinformed minority, they may feel pressured to indulge these groups. And if they themselves believe in this lie, they should be removed from office.
Scholars need to be more organized to exert local influence across the country. In response to the anti-scientific movement in Harford County, we formed a group known as Citizens for Science where science and civil affairs converge. In just a few short months, the group has grown to more than 400 members. These members write to local politicians, appear at local government meetings and openly discuss and discuss science-based strategies. This group continues to grow with an increasing number of people who believe that science-based facts are important in civil matters.
The primaries are taking place. The newsletter you will see in November is already being decided. In many jurisdictions, such as mine, local elections coincide with intermediate deadlines, and groups such as 3.14 Action helped fund, recruit and train STEM professionals for political positions.
This does not mean that all scholars need to run for political office to achieve change. But it is important for all of us to encourage those who make science-based decisions, to run for these offices and to support their campaigns.
Evidence is under attack. Why do we allow a poorly informed, unscientific minority to dominate these important scientific debates? It is time for us to collectively stand up for science again.
This is an article of opinion and analysis, and opinions expressed by the author or authors are not necessarily opinions Scientific American.