Evaluating the perils and promises of academic climate advocacy

  • Maxwell BoykoffEmail author
  • David Oonk


What are the causes and consequences of academic climate advocacy in contemporary times? Should it be celebrated and pursued, or derided and eschewed? Does advocacy in various forms tarnish or enhance the reputation of science? This research examined conditions whereby some in academic communities facilitate various forms of engagement relating to their research while others shy away from applications of their work and avoid the “advocate” label. Through an exploratory survey of US-based natural and social science climate researchers/scholars and through analysis of interviews of US-based climate change academic researchers/scholars as part of an “Inside the Greenhouse” and “More than Scientists” collaboration, we explored academic advocacy in a twenty-first century climate communications environment. Among our findings, there was broad agreement that climate change is a pressing issue, yet among social scientists, women are more likely to agree that advocacy should not be criticized than their male social scientist counterparts. Younger respondents were more likely than older respondents to be compelled to change by advocacy from someone with a smaller carbon footprint. Meanwhile, social scientists were more likely than natural scientists to be compelled to change by someone with a smaller carbon footprint. The associated effect of age differences was stronger than the associated differences with profession. Together, we examined these dynamic conditions that animate advocacy opportunities and tensions in the context of contemporary climate change research and engagement. Through conflation between advocacy for evidence-based climate science and advocacy for particular policy outcomes (with coincident dangers of individualism and apolitical intellectualism), we found that academic climate advocacy remains an unresolved subject.



Both authors thanks the anonymous peer reviewers. They also thank Special Issue Editors Mike Goodman, Julie Doyle and Nathan Farrell. Max Boykoff also thanks the University of Colorado and the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES) for supporting this work. Max Boykoff also thanks colleague Amanda Carrico for her help in the early stages of development of the research. David Oonk thanks the University of Colorado ATLAS institute and the CIRES Graduate Student Research Award Program for funding his time to conduct this research.

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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Center for Science and Technology Policy Research (CSTPR), Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES), Environmental Studies ProgramUniversity of Colorado-BoulderBoulderUSA
  2. 2.Technology, Media and Society, ATLAS Institute, College of Engineering and Applied Science, Center for Science and Technology Policy Research (CSTPR), Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES)University of Colorado-BoulderBoulderUSA

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