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Which scientist has been the best political leader?

By James Dacey

Facebook poll
With the US presidential election now just a few days away, it got us talking here at the Physics World offices about politics and the qualities required for effective political leadership. We were all in agreement that the decision-making process in politics is very different from that in science: in politics decisions often need to be made quickly before all the facts are known. Solutions in politics also tend to be more controversial, with opposing interest groups vying for different outcomes. (Though that’s not to say that science is devoid of politics!) These differences are discussed in a much more nuanced way in this recent article by the philosopher and historian Robert P Crease.

We were also in agreement on two other points. First, that there are not enough top politicians with science backgrounds, and second, that a government made up entirely of scientists would more than likely be a disastrous one. There have, however, been several notable exceptions of scientists who have been political leaders of countries. In this week’s Facebook poll we want you to let us know how effective you think these leaders were.

Which of these scientists has been the best political leader?

Angela Merkel (Germany, physics)
Margaret Thatcher (UK, chemistry)
Yukio Hatoyama (Japan, engineering)
Abdul Kalam (India, physics)
Lucas Papademos (Greece, physics)

To cast your vote please visit our Facebook page, and please feel free to post a comment to explain your decision.

In last week’s poll we looked at the issue of gender bias in the job market. It followed a recent psychological study that found that a set of researchers assessing the employability of early-career scientists subconsciously favoured male students over female candidates. We asked if you believe that physics employers have a subconscious bias towards male job applicants. 67% of respondents replied “yes”.

Thank you for taking part and we hope to hear from you again in this week’s poll.

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