Meeting Challenges With Facts

  • May 23, 2017
  • by Rebecca W. Rimel

Editor’s Recommendation

More Notes from the President

January 26, 2018

No president has faced an ordeal as daunting as the one that confronted Abraham Lincoln in 1864. The nation he loved and governed was literally tearing itself apart. Nevertheless, President Lincoln understood how he must overcome even this most difficult challenge. “I have faith in the people,” he said. “They will not consent to disunion. The danger is that they are misled. Let them know the truth and the country is safe.” 

Lincoln’s words have inspired The Pew Charitable Trusts for almost seven decades. In that time, we have evolved from a foundation giving anonymous gifts into a global nonprofit, changing our structure and expanding our agenda. But while the scope and influence of Pew’s work has grown considerably, our commitment to solving difficult challenges with science and data remains what it has always been: the guiding value on which we base everything we do. 

In this issue of Trust, we explore the many ways Pew uses facts and data to help people of diverse views come together, find common ground, and agree to move forward with solutions that are evidence-based and serve the public interest. This is how we achieved our major accomplishments last year—many completed in collaboration with Pew’s highly valued partners. 

The Voting Information Project—a partnership Pew created with state elections officials, Google, and other technology companies—created a tool that was used 123 million times during the 2016 elections, on a wide range of sites and devices, to help citizens obtain reliable information on when, where, and how to register and cast their ballots. We also collaborated with states to reform their fiscal policies, including evaluating the effectiveness of tax incentives and showing how to best use a rainy day fund as a hedge against declining revenue.

Our commitment to science and discovery—a tradition that began with our founders and continues to guide our efforts—paid significant dividends as rigorous research led to major successes in safeguarding the global environment. Several species of sharks and rays gained new protections; ratification of the Port State Measures Agreement advanced the effort to end illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing; and the world’s largest marine reserve was created in the Antarctic’s Ross Sea.

All of these achievements showcase the return on investment that comes with confronting difficult challenges, not with rhetoric and skepticism, but with data, strong partnerships, and a willingness to speak truth to power.

Pew uses facts and data to help people of diverse views come together, find common ground, and agree to move forward with solutions that are evidence-based and serve the public interest.

Pew also invests in human talent, both as a way of extending a helping hand to the next generation of leaders—which is deeply engrained in our history and values—and as an important spur to new scientific breakthroughs. Over the past three decades, more than 600 early-career researchers of outstanding promise have joined the ranks of the Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences. Three have gone on to win Nobel Prizes, and many others have been recognized with prestigious awards for their innovative and high-impact discoveries.

Pew took this same approach of advancing science by investing in people when we created the Pew Fellows Program in Marine Conservation. Over the past 25 years, we have supported more than 150 scientists and conservationists working to uncover facts about the world’s oceans—exploring their ecology and marine life to help inform policy and practice. 

The Pew Research Center provides another example of this fact-based strategy, becoming a go-to source for reliable data on demographics and public opinion. For example, for 15 years, the center has produced timely, trusted reports on Hispanics, now the largest minority group in the United States and a major force in politics, culture, and the economy. You will learn more about why the center is the gold standard for fact-based research about Hispanics in this issue’s story titled “It’s a New Day.” 

The founders of The Pew Charitable Trusts knew that President Lincoln was right: Meeting challenges with the truth produces the best outcomes. And while the passage of time invariably brings new problems to solve, we will never stray from the wisdom of finding the facts, working with others to bridge our differences, and searching for common cause in fulfilling our mission.