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July 15, 2018 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 96, Issue 29


Letters to the editor

C&EN’s coverage of politics

It is sad to see C&EN going down the path of partisan politics. I have been reading C&EN for over 60 years and have found it to be an interesting and reliable source of information about the chemical world. Unfortunately, judging from the article “Scientists Hit the Campaign Trail” by Rick Mullin in the May 28 issue (page 16), C&EN is leaping with both feet into the muck of divisive politics. The article is ostensibly about Trump’s antiscience policies but looks more like a standard Democratic National Committee Trump-bashing press release, covering a wide range of issues, many not science related at all.

One part of the article features the “storm” of grievances of the Union of Concerned Scientists against Trump’s antiscience bias. At the very top, the first one is against Trump’s effort to restrict Muslim immigration, and the second is to remove information about Obama’s White House staff. How these demonstrate an antiscience bias is beyond me. To my simple mind, these are just blatantly gratuitous slaps at Trump just to pad the list of grievances against him.

The article also describes the multitude of protests and marches against Trump’s policies against women, African Americans, and gun control, among others. Again, I don’t see how these show antiscience bias.

The rest of the article is mostly devoted to grievances against Republicans by candidates seeking office on the Democratic tickets (surprise).

It is unfortunate for a magazine that is supposed to be for all members of the chemical industry, who encompass a variety of political viewpoints, that C&EN is going down the path of divisive politics, for that means a loss of objectivity and credibility. And in this fight there are no winners. In the end all that remains are just the fights.

Max Wisotsky
Highland Park, N.J.

From the web

Re: Scientists hit the campaign trail

Readers online discussed the intersection of science and politics.

It would be wonderful if C&EN would stick to issues related to the science and engineering aspects of chemistry rather than playing politics. The politicization of science is precisely the problem when experimental data is interpreted for political purposes rather than letting the science and data determine the reported outcome(s). Scientists become the sycophant prophets of Baal when they comply with political winds. If one wants to be a politicized social justice warrior one should honestly do that and not hide behind science degrees; many of us would like to be serious scientists and engineers without the politics.

Jerome Workman

Scientists and engineers do not exist in a “scientific bubble” disengaged from important issues that impact the world. When politicians make uninformed decisions that are harmful to the health of the earth, people, or animals, it is our obligation to point out the consequences of these decisions using facts based on sound science. This is not a “politicization of science” as Mr. Workman writes but rather an opportunity to inform and educate. Having some technical people in Congress or local government is a good thing, just as having former military in these roles can only make for better elected leadership.

Phil Brown


I was surprised by the very polarized comments relating to this article.

Governmental decision-making needs to be informed by facts and data and extrapolations from those data; do the [trolls] dispute even that? Increasing the number of scientifically competent and professional members of Congress should, in the natural order of things, enhance that decision-making.

Science needs funds to operate, and in these economically challenged times, scientists have recently become much more effective and successful at pitching to the funders to obtain the necessary resources.

Congress might just find that new scientifically savvy members are also formidable advocates and valuable allies, given their highly developed analytical and logical argument skills, in lobbying for funding of projects outside of their fields of expertise and in which they happen to have a special interest­—which is more likely to be at least partly altruistic (not 100%, we are all human) than, for example, the CFOs.

I have great respect for Randy Wadkins and scientists like him who care enough to stand up and get out there—to make the case for science and technology, facts and logic; to try to make a difference; and to challenge the budget managers, who tend to know the cost of everything and the value of nothing, not to mention whether or not the data support their decisions.

Cliff Burford


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