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Speaking out: weighing advocacy and objectivity as a junior scientist


“Ecologists wear many hats, and some fit better than others. One hat sure to provoke controversy especially when only worn by students is that of advocate. Ecologists become advocates when they go beyond objective research and actively champion particular viewpoints. The role of advocacy in science has stimulated considerable discussion over the past several years, particularly among conservation biologists (eg Shrader-Frechette 1996; Strong 2008). I argue here that students have a unique role in this discussion. Our position as junior scientists affords special challenges, risks, and rewards when engaging in advocacy. I highlight these tradeoffs and offer suggestions for how to identify and avoid some of the pitfalls, drawing from my own brief experience as an ecologist-in-training…”