We scientists often take pride and great comfort in realizing that we live in The Age of Science. Perhaps our pride has turned to hubris and our comfort to complacency regarding our role in this age. The general public, even our friends, neighbors, and relatives who aren't scientists recognize we live in The Age of Science. Science surrounds our daily lives. Science is involved in many of the major stories of the day, covered on front pages of newspapers and as leading stories on the evening news. From Martian rovers to global climate change to biomedical advances that lead to longer, healthier lives, science has an evident role in many of our most exciting and interesting moments these days. The tangible benefits of science to our daily experiences are seen frequently: from hybrid fuel-efficient cars and pocket PCs, to organ transplants, weight-control medications, in vitro fertilization, and a myriad of other medical achievements. Thought of as science fiction not too many years ago, these are today's science facts.
Is it any wonder that scientists are called upon to solve many of the most pressing issues of the day? Science has become such a pervasive part of our lives that scientists are now viewed as the necessary "royal viziers" to nations and national leaders. So much so that it is necessary now for those who govern not only to have the advice of scientists but to show that their actions are based on science. President Bush, The Elder, stated it well when he said in 1990:"Science, like any field of endeavor, relies on freedom of inquiry; and one of the hallmarks of that freedom is objectivity. Now more than ever, on issues ranging from climate change to AIDS research to genetic engineering to food additives, government relies on the impartial perspective of science for guidance."
Many of us, myself included, work to provide the knowledge necessary for sound decisions for ecosystem management and wise use of environmental resources. Others provide information necessary for policy decisions ranging from how best to wage war to how best to find peaceful solutions to wars. Nations have become great, at least in part, because of the accomplishments of their scientists and the access of their leaders to those scientists (Union of Concerned Scientists, 2004).
"Science" has become the necessary "Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval" for policies...