February 17, 2017 Editor’s Note: For a nonpartisan assessment of Why Scientists Must Also Be Advocates and suggestions for what you can do now to connect to the public, listen to a podcast with Mary Woolley, president of Research!America
ORCID ID: 0000-0001-7318-5892
“You look at science (or at least talk of it) as some sort of demoralizing invention of man, something apart from real life, and which must be cautiously guarded and kept separate from everyday existence. But science and everyday life cannot and should not be separated.” -Rosalind Franklin
In this current political climate, facts matter more than ever. With responsibility as a leading Open Access publisher, a beacon of positive change to archaic systems, PLOS loudly stands up for science and scientists around the world in their efforts to improve the health and well-being of societies and explain the wonder of the world around and beyond us.
Back in the 17th and 18th centuries, enlightenment thinkers advanced politics, philosophy, science and communication; they supported equality and human dignity, and opposed superstition, intolerance and bigotry. Scientific thinking and the scientific method was a critical shaper of the enlightenment. As we look at the world around us, we must ask, what has the scientific method brought to our world, and to our world view? To answer this question, we must let the data speak for itself. Your data. My data. And the data of every geologist, atmospheric scientist, evolutionary biologist, geneticist, physicist, engineer, software developer and physician scientist. This is a position PLOS has exemplified through its Open Data policy and we strongly support the Office of Science and Technology Policy’s guidance, provided most recently in its January 6, 2017 memo, on this important area.
Science in Action
But how can this data speak when science communication is blocked from reaching the public and the scientists themselves are prevented from reaching their labs, their communities, their places of work? Access to information, access to research and data enables better policy decisions. In turn, policies informed by publicly and privately funded data and created by enlightened governments, academic communities, patient advocacy groups and global coalitions all power improvements in our world. Climate change, vaccine safety and animal welfare are among the many areas where we support the scientific endeavor to inform the debate with data-based evidence, and organizations like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization rely on data-based evidence to foster human health both in the US and around the world.
It is impossible for PLOS to know how many of our global network of nearly 7,000 editors, more than 78,000 reviewers and authors from more than 190 countries are on any particular type of visa. We do know science is, and has been for generations, an international endeavor. Scientists collaborate and travel for post-doctoral fellowships, conferences, review panels, sabbaticals and speaking engagements. Conceptual understanding, testable hypothesis, well-designed studies, observational methods and sufficient replication are the tenets of science discussed during these meetings, as well as during routine days in the lab. These tenets of science are upheld by all researchers, regardless of nationality, religion, race, gender, sexual orientation, career stage or professional stature. Immigration restrictions inhibit that free exchange of knowledge.
As a nonprofit publisher, innovator and advocacy organization founded to accelerate progress in science communication, we must advocate for what we know to be true: PLOS must not only liberate science communication from the constraints of traditional publishing, we must stand up for science to ensure the liberation of scientific facts, intelligent discourse and conclusions based on data. Given that PLOS’ primary mission is the elimination of barriers to the open dissemination of scientific research, we’re naturally against policies and practices that increase, rather than decrease, obstacles.
In a world that abruptly and forcefully presents challenges of accessibility, accountability and discovery, a rigorous commitment to our core principles and mission to transform how research results are communicated is even more critical. A growing international community of readers, educators, policy makers, scientists and entrepreneurs share, reuse and remix Open Access research article content without restriction—advancing the innovation economy and the health of communities around the world.
We continue to support the scientific community from which we were founded and to be vocal in pushing the continued expansion of open science. We support, and will be represented at, the March for Science in Washington—now scheduled for Earth Day April 22nd! We look forward to seeing you there.
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