In the past months, the current government has proposed broad and deep cuts to science funding, reduced environmental regulation, has withdrawn from the Paris climate accord, and has left a number of key science advisory positions unstaffed. Much has been written about the underlying rationale for this anti-science attitude, and at least part of this is due to the distrust that many have in science. Common portrayals of scientists don’t help; from white coated scientists in cartoons, to the caricatures of Einstein as a wild haired genius, scientists are generally viewed as crazy, nefarious, disconnected white males. Browsing for an image to accompany this piece, I googled ‘Scientist caricature’ and the attached image popped up (Wikimedia commons). Need I say more?
We trust plumbers to fix faucets, we don’t hesitate to go to the barber for a haircut–why should people be so distrustful of scientists and scientific expertise? We need to change the mad scientist stereotype, and show our community that science matters and science is accessible. Each and every one of us can be an ambassador for science. Bring the wonder of the insect world to a kindergarten class; discuss the scientific method at a science cafe; write for your local newspaper about the latest advances in solar energy; get involved! Show the world and show your neighbors the real faces of scientists.