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Conserv Biol. 2009 Oct;23(5):1090-101. doi: 10.1111/j.1523-1739.2009.01250.x. Epub 2009 May 18.

On advocacy by environmental scientists: what, whether, why, and how.

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Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, Lyman Briggs College, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI 48825, USA.


Debate about the nature and appropriateness of advocacy by environmental scientists is important--it represents understanding the role of these citizens in our society. Much has been written about advocacy by scientists, and that literature describes substantial diversity in reasons why advocacy by scientists is or is not appropriate. Despite the nature of this literature there has been no comprehensive, systematic review of why some favor and others oppose advocacy by environmental scientists. Through a literature review we catalogued, categorized, and critiqued the arguments used for and against the appropriateness of advocacy by environmental scientists. Most arguments, whether for or against advocacy, are characterized by some significant deficiency. From our analysis of the literature an argument emerges that to date has never been fully articulated: that advocacy is nearly unavoidable, and that scientists, by virtue of being citizens first and scientists second, have a responsibility to advocate to the best of their abilities, to improve their advocacy abilities, and to advocate in a justified and transparent manner. We also discuss the meaning and relevance of advocacy being justified and transparent. We suggest scientists expend their efforts to better understand what constitutes appropriate advocacy and spend less effort pondering whether they should advocate.

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