Lerryn (lerryn) wrote in scietech,

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Science, Law, and Politics

jenk put up an interesting article here from the Wall Street Journal, pointing out how often law, politics, and procedure fall behind the realities of scientific research. The specific examples I remember are how current police lineup procedure yields false IDs too often despite a proven better procedure existing, and how estimates of fish population were consistently ignored by regulators, resulting in vastly depleted fisheries in Nova Scotia. So, is there anything scientists can do to increase public awareness of their findings, or that policymakers can do to make sure that their policies are based on accurate data?
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I don't know how much some policy makers care if the science truly backs up their policy. Many time it seems that people will find the little bit of scientific data that might support their position whether or not the greater majority of data does not. I think it is up to the scientists to take their case directly to the public through education. Web sites, books, articles, and the like. That is something I've noticed the last few years in particular the increasing number of popular books that are science based.

Policymakers ignoring good science is a definite problem (ozone depletion, global warming, overuse of resources, etc.) So I suppose the question becomes how to get media to care enough to publicize it, as the average voter isn't likely to be a regular reader of publications like Scientific American and such.
Yeah, in response to the fisheries problem, that's a tough one. It's frightening what science is discovering in that field, and unfortunately some of the solutions include stopping certain fisheries all together (which certain regulators wouldn't consider doing). Researchers are just now realizing how overfishing is effecting certain populations and trying to present these problems to regulators in a manner that says "here's the problem, if you don't deal with it now, you won't HAVE anything to be worrying about in the future (i.e. no more fish)."
Did you hear that Bush wants hatchery salmon to count toward wild salmon populations as far as the Endangered Species Act is concerned? That is sad...