Absence of scientific independence can be associated with a lack of impartiality and therefore with a lack of credibility. Yet scientific credibility is essential for effective participation in sociopolitical processes—processes that necessarily involve politics and often result in decisions about land management, conservation, and public policy. All scientists are aware of these processes, many wish to participate, and some wish to advocate for their personal policy preferences. However, scientists who lack impartiality often create the perception of bias, and they can suffer a concomitant loss of credibility. Some policy-makers also have personal preferences for certain policies, and the term normative policies can be used here even though all policies can be viewed as normative in the sense that they involve multiple inputs. Hence, the idea that scientists must provide unbiased information for unbiased application by policy-makers is sometimes wrong. For scientists to be effective participants in sociopolitical processes that lead to conservation policies or related actions, they should inform the public about issues while avoiding direct involvement in policy development and the political considerations this necessarily entails. Scientists should only participate in the decision-making process with impartial information and in their proper role as objective scientists.
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Vol. 74 • No. 6