Gavin Schmidt argues that once scientists enter a charged public debate, they will inevitably be perceived as advocating for one side or the other – whether or not that is their intention. And it fact…
it is almost always the case that a scientist speaking in public is in fact advocating for something—deeper public understanding of the science, more research funding, a more informed public discourse, awareness, and, yes, sometimes for specific policy action. Each of these examples is a reflection of both a scientific background and a set of values that, for instance, might prize an informed populace or continued research employment.
He recommends scientists recognise, and are explicit about their own values:
Responsible advocates are up-front about what is being advocated for and how the intersection of values and science led to that position. On the other hand, it is irresponsible to proclaim that there are no values involved, or to misrepresent what values are involved. Responsible advocacy must acknowledge that the same scientific conclusions may not lead everyone to the same policies (because values may differ). Assuming that one’s own personal values are universal, or that disagreement on policy can be solved by recourse to facts alone, is a common mistake.
Much of relevance here to anyone engaging in public debates of this kind, professional scientist or not.