Skip to main content

Report: Responsible Advocacy in Science: Standards, Benefits, and Risks

This paper looks at the special role scientists play when their communications move beyond reporting and explaining to advocating. I will focus primarily on advocacy as a professional activity undertaken by individual scientists. I will also focus on advocacy as an aspect of external, public communication. Admittedly, this is not the only context in which scientists advocate. Grant proposals and letters of recommendation are forms of advocacy—the former for one’s own research and the latter for students and colleagues with whom one has worked. How scientists should behave in these internal, professional settings is important but also addressed in the rules and guidelines for grant applications, peer review, publication and other inter-professional activities. Similar rules and guidelines are not as readily available for scientists when they communicate with non-professionals, and particularly when they engage in advocacy. This paper presents a framework for discussing how such rules and guidelines could be developed and a suggested “Code of Conduct for Advocacy in Science.”

This report was updated on 8/22/2016 with front matter text to clarify the authorship and purpose of the paper. 

This report was prepared by Nicholas Steneck on October 17, 2011 as background material for an event convened by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and does not necessarily reflect the views of AAAS, its Council, Board of Directors, officers, or members. AAAS is not responsible for the accuracy of this material. AAAS has made this material available as a public service, but this does not constitute endorsement by the association.