Prior to DukeEngage, I did not interact with science advocacy. Since coming to D.C. I learned why: it is considered a detriment to the validity of science. Policy advocates appear to push an agenda both politically and scientifically. Their research is deemed biased and are subsequently ostracized from the community. Over time, the word advocacy has become associated and confused for lobbying, which are different legal terms. A lobbyist invests a high percentage of money and time into promoting policy, while an advocate has a stronger grassroots presence. Relatively few individuals are registered lobbyists even within a large advocacy group such as the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). In fact, within my program we are aiming to reclaim the advocate label and reintegrate scientists into the political sphere. This is a difficult task for advocacy covers a spectrum of engagement. Organizations across different sectors share the word but definitions vary. For example, at the Center for the Study of Social Policy advocacy is sharing information while the new interim CEO of AAAS promotes strategic and vocal policy opinions.
While trying to piece together my own understanding of advocacy, I have come across an interesting inconsistency. Recently I attended the series of scientific integrity hearings held by the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee and the House Natural Resources Committee. They focused on violations of scientific integrity in federal agencies and defined both scientific misconduct and integrity. A violation of scientific integrity is when an external entity meddles with science. Scientific misconduct is when the scientist themselves meddles with their research. Not a single example or definition presented during the hearings mentioned science advocacy. If it is not viewed as an influential component of scientific misconduct or integrity, why is it demonized? Scientists have allowed exceptions to the rule define their opinions and actions, which quite frankly, is bad science.