Why science matters

A statement by the Presidents, past and present, of the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies.

Our lives and economies have been enriched by science. Science is the engine behind innovation in almost every field, from technology and food production to clean energy and biomedical breakthroughs. Science has taken us to the moon, cured disease, turned sunlight into electricity, and transformed the way we communicate. Science underpins our understanding of the management of the world’s natural resources. 

Each year, scientific innovations reduce the cost of computing power, increase our access to information, and enable us to feed an expanding, and ever-more-demanding, human population. Science helps set our priorities, enabling policy makers and natural resources managers to use limited resources effectively, to keep the air and water clean and to preserve the public health. But in a world where the importance of facts, and of the validity of scientific inquiry, has been brought into question, where scientific consensus is discounted in the development of national policy, those of us for whom science is our mission and our daily pursuit need to voice our concerns. 

Founded in 1983, the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies was established to advance knowledge of the Earth’s ecosystems. From our inception, we recognized the essential role of science in addressing societal problems and guiding environmental and resource management. Central to our research has been the study of how human-accelerated environmental change affects ecosystem stability, persistence, and function. These studies include understanding how forests, freshwaters, and human health are influenced by: land conversion; the movement of pests and pathogens; nutrient pollution; a proliferation of synthetic chemicals and toxic substances; urbanization; and the impacts of human-driven climate change through greenhouse gas emissions.

We are a community that values science as a pursuit based on the open sharing of data, results, and information. Science flourishes when efforts are transparent and inclusive. The issues we confront do not recognize borders: our research and our collaborations span the globe. Our international partners provide vital insights and perspectives and amplify the impact of our science in manifold ways. Preserving the free-flow of ideas and people is paramount to the scientific endeavor. 

Science is the quintessential public-private partnership. Governments have, for nearly a century, been the primary funders of science, and society has reaped the benefits. The collaboration of government, university, and industry scientists is essential to both our economy, and to the intelligent management of finite natural resources. And the scientific process is not political: it is a method of acquiring knowledge and refining our understanding of the world and how it works.

The Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies remains steadfast in its commitment to generating the best science possible about Earth’s ecosystems and sharing its findings broadly. Now, more than ever, we need to ensure that facts underpin the policy process and guide decisions about how we manage the environment.

The health of our planet, and all of its citizens, is at stake. 

Joshua R. Ginsberg
Gene E. Likens
William H. Schlesinger



Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies | Millbrook, New York 12545 | Tel (845) 677-5343

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