How involved in politics should scientists be? What factors are important when it comes to making that decision?
For some of us, the answer to that comes fairly easily. One or two of us managed to evade the stereotype of the scientist-of-the-future, and caught the involvement bug because we were popular enough to win a role in student government early in our lives. A few of us were caught in a different stereotype - the children of the flower children - and have never known what it is like to not be involved in political causes. A bunch of scientists are just plain incapable of keeping their noses out of anything they bump into, whether it directly involves science or not.
The decision is harder for others. There are a few scientists who really do have an ivory tower mindset, and actively try to avoid anything that smacks of politics. Many put so many hours into their science that they don’t have any to spare for politics. More are apathetic to politics, or disillusioned, or simply unaware of the issues.
Both the involved and uninvolved should read a new article in PLoS Biology. The article, “Scientific Illiteracy and the Partisan Takeover of Biology,” provides some reasons to get more involved in the political process and some hints as to where the efforts of scientists might most effectively be focused.