Scientific research ‘only for social and economic gain’? May 16, 2013Posted by WorldbyStorm in Business, Economy.
…uh-oh. Depressing to read this in Slate the day before yesterday from Phil Plait about how the Canadian National Research Council has now stated that:
they will only perform research that has “social or economic gain”.
John MacDougal, President of the NRC, literally said, “Scientific discovery is not valuable unless it has commercial value”. Gary Goodyear, the Canadian Minister of State for Science and Technology, also stated “There is [sic] only two reasons why we do science and technology. First is to create knowledge … second is to use that knowledge for social and economic benefit. Unfortunately, all too often the knowledge gained is opportunity lost.”
As Plait notes, this is entirely wrong. As he puts it:
This is monumentally backwards thinking. That is not the reason we do science. Economic benefits are results of doing research, but should not be the reason we do it. Basic scientific research is a vast endeavor, and some of it will pay off economically, and some won’t. In almost every case, you cannot know in advance which will do which.
But as noted in comments under the article this is a line of thinking that can be found much closer to home… George Monbiot noted on his blog, again coincidentally the day before yesterday, that:
Two weeks ago I castigated the new [United Kingdom] chief scientist, Sir Mark Walport, for misinforming the public about risk, making unscientific and emotionally manipulative claims and indulging in scaremongering and wild exaggeration in defence of the government’s position(3). Since then I have seen his first speech in his new role, and realised that the problem runs deeper than I thought.
How much deeper?
Speaking at the Centre for Science and Policy at Cambridge University, Walport maintained that scientific advisors had five main functions, and the first of these was “ensuring that scientific knowledge translates to economic growth”. No statement could more clearly reveal what Benda called the “assimilation” of the intellectual. As if to drive the point home, the press release summarising his speech revealed that the centre is sponsored, among others, by BAE Systems, BP and Lloyd’s.