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Scientists as activists: examining the intersection between climate advocacy, activism, and scientist identity

Activity: Talk or presentation typesInvited talk


What role do, and what role should, academics play in the climate crisis? Increasingly, academics are encouraged to step beyond traditional roles by joining social movements and engaging directly in public action. Groups like Scientists for Extinction Rebellion and Scientist Rebellion combine both role and activist identities. In survey (N = 329) and interview (N = 27) research we explored, quantitatively and qualitatively, how scientist identity relates to frequency of pro-environmental activism and advocacy, and endorsement of distinct climate change solutions e.g., technological solutions compared with political solutions. We found that identification as a scientist did not differ between activist and non-activist scientists. However, beliefs about the role of the scientist, including objectivity, impartiality, and whether a scientist has a duty to act for the environment, differ between activists and non-activists. In addition, those who believe that a scientist should be objective and impartial were more likely to support technological solutions as the sole climate solution. Our interview research found contrasting understandings of the efficacy and legitimacy of public action, and differences in personal thresholds for action. This research makes a vital contribution to an important debate that is highly relevant for us to consider as academics and as citizens.

External organisation

NameUniv Bath, University of Bath, Dept Psychol
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom