Restoring the Role of Science

The Center for Science and Democracy,
Union of Concerned Scientists

Now more than ever, we need solid, independent science to help us solve complex energy and environmental challenges. But in today’s polarized political climate and noisy media landscape, good science is too often ignored, misrepresented, or manipulated. Leading scientists have joined in an organized effort to push back.

photo credit Johan Swanepoel

Through the Center, more than 17,000 scientists speak up for science and challenge misinformation in the halls of Congress and beyond.

The skirmishes over the state of climate change are a good illustration of what is at stake. Deniers made a big media splash early in the decade, but more recently have been losing ground. According to nationwide polls, a majority of Americans now think climate change is real, and a rising percentage believe human activity is the prime cause. Moreover, by a two-to-one margin, the American public supports action to reduce CO2 emissions, even if it means higher household energy bills.

The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) is among the groups that helped turn the tide on this issue. In 2012, UCS created the Center for Science and Democracy, an initiative that aims to restore the role of science in public discourse and decision-making. By mobilizing the UCS Science Network, a community of more than 17,000 scientists, engineers, economists, and other experts, the initiative conducts and publishes research, challenges misinformation, empowers citizens, and speaks up for science in Congress, in other policy bodies, and in the media. In short, it works to shift the discussion from rhetoric and ideology to credible information and evidence-based solutions.

While the Center works on a range of issues including food supply and nuclear power, clean energy and climate change are core to its agenda. Philanthropedia, an organization devoted to evaluating the effectiveness of nonprofit groups, puts UCS among the top three “high impact” nonprofits working nationally in the field of climate change.

The UCS initiative also reminds us that science and our democracy have always worked hand in hand. Our Founding Fathers were citizen scientists who explicitly sought to base their decisions on reason and the best, most up-to-date information available. We need to continue building on that legacy.

Our Role

Based on our support for a previous project, the Union of Concerned Scientists approached us with the proposal for this initiative. Our $150,000, three-year grant helped get the project off the ground.

Why This Grant

As techies say, “garbage in, garbage out.” In these complicated times, it’s critical that decision-makers, communicators, and citizens alike have access to a knowledge base with the sophistication and credibility needed to support smart, cutting-edge policies.