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Reporting on science in jeopardy

A perhaps odd thing about yesterday's New York Times article on some scientists' fears that new government regulations on scientific research and publications "threaten to undermine the fundamental openness of science": It fails to mention the publication, some two weeks ago, of a report called Science and Technology in a Vulnerable World by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).

The AAAS report (which would normally would have been held for publication as part of the 2003 AAAS Science and Technology Policy Yearbook, the AAAS says, but that "this is not an ordinary year in the aftermath of Sept. 11, nor are this volume's issues ordinary policy concerns") doesn't share the Times article's initial focus on biology research, but the conclusions and concerns expressed in each are almost all the same: Restrictions on the freedom to conduct scientific research and share its results openly represent a threat to scientific progress.

I suppose the relative timing of the pieces could be a coincidence (though when I first saw the headline on the front page of the Times' science section, I figured the AAAS report would be the article's main source), but I'd hope that the Times is at least aware of the report. I'm aware of it myself simply because I flip through Science News every week (and saw this item); that doesn't sound like too much to ask of America's newspaper of record. But if they did know about it, wouldn't it have merited at least a mention in this article? And wouldn't some of the report's authors have been worth interviewing?

(Of course, I'm not in the field, and don't really know how significant any of these things are, nor what went into researching and reporting the Times article. I was just surprised, is all.)

August 14, 2002 11:38 PM

Comments (and TrackBacks)

A much (much) more disturbing trend in America is the increasingly slimmer, and slimmer amount of publicly funded R&D. Corporations (pick a few of your favourites, like AMD or Dupont-make-things-sick-for-profit) are now the leaders in scientific research -- and the community won't own even a stitch of it.

That's how the next batch of revolutions get sparked; Taking back what is freely given to us by Nature. The real natural birthright of poor and rich alike.

One day (soon) no soy bean will exist on this planet that belongs to the public commonwealth; All soy beans' "offspring" will be slowly spliced (by natural polination) with the intellectual property of this or that corp or foreign govt entity (don't think for a second that, say, a government like Tajikistan or Russia wouldn't get into the gene-mod business). This natural splicing method will also, a little farther down, be a slow-moving method of war, too.

And most of us here will all welcome our own tribal "gene bomb", the racist buggers we all are at heart. ("Don't let the Chinese inherit the Earth and, G-d help only us, lets keep the Moon white.")

When that day comes in the next 15-20 years we start to decompile, and otherwise break, the natural interdependencies of nature.

Science owned by capitalism is inherently bad. Very bad.
Economies, and societies, need to start to retool themselves away from a profit-base to a knowledge/survival base.

One day we will all goto work with the hope of building our socities' wealth of knowledge, and therefore chances of survival, and forgetting about personal profit and pleasure. But, that'll only happen when that survival is personally at risk for each of you.

Yes, yes, yes Outlandish, especially to us newbies here, fresh out from our recently punctured Disneyland-like embryonic sac. Bad things happen, very bad things. Who would have thought the USSR would be history, or the American economy cast down by a bunch of 20-something unemployed Saudi boys.

If we watch more circus and play more games everything will be fine.

.rob

Posted by rob adams on August 15, 2002 1:24 PM


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