This open letter from a climate change skeptic to Marcia McNuttoffers some home truths that can certainly apply to other areas of science as well:
Unfortunately, during the intervening 35 years of your remarkable scientific career since you were a graduate student, a once-stellar magazine has fallen on hard times. Starting with Donald Kennedy, and continuing under Bruce Alberts, it has become a shabby vehicle for strident climate activism … and that experiment has proven once again that Science can’t be both an activist journal and a scientific journal. Science magazine has thrown its considerable (but rapidly decreasing) weight behind a number of causes. And yes, some of those causes are indeed important.
The problem is that you are convinced the causes are hugely important, and you want to convince us of the same. But once you convince people that your causes are more important to you than your science, that’s it for your authority regarding the science. You either get to have activism, or you get scientific authority. You don’t get both. And the past actions of your magazine have clearly demonstrated that these days your activist causes are much more important to you than the science.
Usually, when people acknowledge science as the only source of truth, their pet causes govern what science is allowed to be true.
And regarding you personally taking a position? Well, that’s interesting. The problem is that you are extremely well educated, strong, strikingly good looking, and a wickedly-smart woman by all accounts … and while those are all good things, that’s a scary combination. One downside of that particular melange is that as a result, it’s very possible that people, particularly men, haven’t told you the unvarnished truth in years. So some of what I have to say may be a surprise to you.
The rest of Dr. Eschenbach’s letter makes interesting reading if you follow the climate change controversy, but the reality is that editor McNutt’s many assets in life mean that she doesn’t need to make decisions based on facts, only on perceptions. It’s only the little people who need facts.