Nature on Obama

"Scientists who now view Obama in almost messianic terms should try to be more realistic and sceptical about his administration."

- Nature magazine, editorial

Although (nearly) everyone cheered when US President Obama pledged to "restore science to its rightful place", researchers would do well to remember that he is not the Messiah, but is just as likely as anyone else to make mistakes or enact disagreeable policy. It is up to scientists to continue their involvement in the political sphere, without letting activism compromise their scientific integrity, according to an editorial in this week's Nature magazine.

After the excoriation of the scientific process during the years of the previous US Administration, it is tempting for scientists, particularly in the States, to relax and pat themselves on the back: "Our guy won". However, scientists cannot afford to be partisan when it comes to the results of scientific enquiry: scepticism and the scientific method are non-political. For example, scientists can predict the consequences of carbon dioxide levels stabilizing at a certain concentration in the atmosphere, but cannot tell policy-makers which line the world should draw on emissions: that is a political decision and depends on what sacrifices people are prepared to make in terms of energy and economy.

Equally, then, scientists at all levels must continue to speak out against any politician who ignores or misunderstands the scientific process or its results, or who picks and chooses data to support their preconceived conclusions.

Even – especially – if that politician is Barack H. Obama.

You can read the entire article with a subscription to Nature.

- Contributed by Richard P. Grant