Examining the Intersection of Behavioral Science and Advocacy

Introduction to Special Collection of the Behavioral Scientist by Cintia Hinojosa and Evan Nesterak: “Over the past year, everyone’s lives have been touched by issues that intersect science and advocacy—the pandemic, climate change, police violence, voting, protests, the list goes on. 

These issues compel us, as a society and individuals, toward understanding. We collect new data, design experiments, test our theories. They also inspire us to examine our personal beliefs and values, our roles and responsibilities as individuals within society. 

Perhaps no one feels these forces more than social and behavioral scientists. As members of fields dedicated to the study of social and behavioral phenomena, they are in the unique position of understanding these issues from a scientific perspective, while also navigating their inevitable personal impact. This dynamic brings up questions about the role of scientists in a changing world. To what extent should they engage in advocacy or activism on social and political issues? Should they be impartial investigators, active advocates, something in between? 

t also raises other questions, like does taking a public stance on an issue affect scientific integrity? How should scientists interact with those setting policies? What happens when the lines between an evidence-based stance and a political position become blurred? What should scientists do when science itself becomes a partisan issue? 

To learn more about how social and behavioral scientists are navigating this terrain, we put out a call inviting them to share their ideas, observations, personal reflections, and the questions they’re grappling with. We gave them 100-250 words to share what was on their mind. Not easy for such a complex and consequential topic.

The responses, collected and curated below, revealed a number of themes, which we’ve organized into two parts….(More)”.