But instead, the relative absence of academics and academic scholarship in the public discourse creates a vacuum into which uninformed, wrong, and downright destructive viewpoints get voiced and take hold.
Here’s a typical example. After the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010, conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh argued that “The ocean will take care of this on its own if it was left alone...” In fact, the spill created extensive damage to wide ranging marine habitats as well as the Gulf Coast’s fishing and tourism industries. Long-term impacts are still unclear as scientists continue to monitor underwater plumes of dissolved oil that lie along the bottom.
To show how infrequently scientists communicate with the public, consider these findings. In news stories about the UN climate summit in Copenhagen in 2010, only 4 percent of the individuals quoted were scientists. This is according to the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at the University of Oxford in England.
Similarly, only 9 percent of commentary pieces and letters to the editor in major US newspapers and magazines were written by university-based scientists in 2007, 2008 and 2009. The study was reported in the academic journal Organizations & Environment.
Another study finds a dearth of articles about climate change in business, sociology, and political science publications.