These are chaotic times for political scientists, given the chaos that has been created by the Gulf Oil Spill. The job descriptions reside in the political alliance or the neutrality of the political scientist. The tasks, challenges and opportunities are dependent upon whether the political scientist is aligned with the interests of the oil and gas industry, the people, a particular political movement or party or whether the scientist is able to take a position of scientific neutrality, no matter who it is that they report to.
Unless they are independently wealthy, political scientists have to work for one interest or another, and their work will be defined by their position or level within an organization. One employer may give the higher level scientist a free hand to study whatever it is that they think is important. The same employer may assign a lower level scientist to a task that is geared toward proving or supporting only a certain political or corporate point of view.
A political scientist who works for British Petroleum, for example, will be working toward a differing set of goals and scientific outcomes than a political scientist who works for the State of Louisiana, one who is working for a private organization, or one who is working in support of a branch of government. Perhaps the most neutral ones will be working for a university or organization that is far away from the gulf and that has the goal of scientific objectivity over any other consideration.
What, on Earth are these scientists working on? Chaos. There are economic, environmental, medical and social concerns, of course. But there are complexities where one area may impact another, where cause may affect an unrelated field, and where time is being thought of as part of the immediate crisis and part of the permanent disaster at the same time. Political scientists, for example, have to start planning now for internecine legal battles, delayed payment of monetary claims, discoveries of new illness years from now and long term destruction of jobs, habitat and regional normality.
Political scientists who shape, form and enforce the law will be busy for all time. British Petroleum is now notorious for defiance, obstructionism and a serious lack of concern for the people of the Northeast Gulfof Mexico. The news feed will change public opinion as more revelations about the disaster and about the behavior of BP continue to be made public. As a result, the most obvious and obnoxious series of corporate misbehavior in history will be a major component of the work of political scientists, especially the ones who deal with corporate crimes and the resulting calls for fines and sanctions that are not only based on current law, but which will be based on future laws. They will have to survey and gauge the will and opinion of the people, but will also have to gauge the increasingly influential will and power of the corporations as well.
The political scientists who work on developing agencies or modifying agencies will be busy. Depending upon the leadership, the former Minerals Management Service that has been broken up will have to undergo a period of reorganization, cleanup, analysis and prevention of recurring corruption and mismanagement.
The political scientists who work on developing environmental remediation, humanitarian care, medical care, social services support and ongoing environmental disaster programs will have to deal not only with ongoing introductions of oil, but with ongoing onsets of related illness, extended loss of habitat for wildlife and food stocks, and extended periods of unemployment in a vast array of jobs. There will be surprisingly widespread national onsets of very complicated problems that have origins and relationships to the BP oil spill. Everything from budgeting to engaging in legal disputes to recovering claimed money will challenge the best political scientists in every government, private and corporate workforce.
The political scientists who work in the areas of political campaigns, ideology, party politics, marketing and social movements will be kept busy for all time. There are the issues of getting out of dependency on fossil fuels. There are the issues of either coming up with more ways to create political disruption, such as the Birther and Tea Party movements, or of fighting the political craziness as the national mid term elections heat up. The major issues related to the BP oil spill will be the increasing power of the corporations, the perceivedneglect of the public will, and the increasing desire to put gas and oil out of power and business in America and the world. There will also be such bizarre and unresolved issues of foreign corporations behaving like foreign powers on American soil and political image when responding to crises and disasters.
In summary, while these are nowhere near all of the areas where political scientists will be challenged by the repercussions of the BP oil spill, they will be considerations by many people who work in many sub fields and specialties while employed by a variety of firms, non profits, corporations, institutions and agencies.