There's some great stuff here, particularly in the actual report (item 3), which is well worth reading in full (for how to get it, see below).
all items excerpts only:
1.Future innovation threatened by a science for sale - DEMOS press release
2.Excerpts from the preface - Lord Robert Winston
3.Excerpts from the report - 'The Public Value of Science: Or how to ensure that science really matters'
The report is published by Demos on 5th September 2005. Copies can be downloaded from www.demos.co.uk/catalogue/publicvalueofscience
or ordered from Central Books on +44 (0)20 8986 5488.
QUOTES: "we need to ask who's setting the agenda for science. There's a real danger that commercial pressures will restrict the openness of academic research, and stifle wider debate about the role of science in society." (item 1)
"We need to break down some of the false oppositions between scientists and the public that critics such as Taverne seek to perpetuate. Those scientists who take part as expert witnesses in public engagement exercises, such as citizens' juries, are frequently surprised at the insight and common sense that ordinary members of the public bring to such interactions." (item 3)
1.Future innovation threatened by a science for sale
Scientists must spark public debate about the value of science
Contact the Demos press office
Closer ties between business and university science threaten to stifle public debate about science and distort research priorities, according to a report published by the think-tank Demos. The Public Value of Science: Or how to ensure that science really matters argues that ethical considerations and public engagement should become part of everyday scientific practice.
The report will be launched on Monday 5th September at the BA Festival in Dublin, to coincide with a keynote speech by Professor Robert Winston, this year's President of the BA. Writing in the foreword to the report, Lord Winston calls on his fellow scientiststo do more to engage the public:
"The scientific community once believed it could assuage public concerns over the misuse of science by better communication. Now the watchword is 'engagement' and with it 'dialogue'. The scientific community is beginning to realise, but often reluctantly accept, that we scientists need to take greater notice of public concerns, and relate and react to them. Expressions of despair at public ignorance, impotent polemics about the advantages of technology, assertions that our economy is threatened by reactionary attitudes, attempts at manipulation of the press, are all totally inadequate responses. The time is right for examining the means and the details of public engagement."
The report's authors, James Wilsdon and Jack Stilgoe of Demos and Brian Wynne of Lancaster University, recommend that the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee investigates the influence of business on academic research.
"Collaboration between universities and businesses is important," says James Wilsdon, co-author of the report. "But we need to ask who's setting the agenda for science. There's a real danger that commercial pressures will restrict the openness of academic research, and stifle wider debate about the role of science in society."
Contact the Demos press office
telephone: 0845 458 5949
authors: Dr James Wilsdon is Head of Science and Innovation at Demos. His previous publications include See-through Science: Why public engagement needs to move upstream (with Rebecca Willis). Brian Wynne is Professor of Science Studies at Lancaster University. Dr Jack Stilgoe is a Researcher at Demos.
Demos: Demos is an independent think-tank. The Public Value of Science is part of Demos' research programme on science and innovation.
The Public Value of Science was produced in partnership Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, Environment Agency, Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, Practical Action and the British Association for the Advancement of Science. It was partly funded by the government's Sciencewise programme.
2.Excerpts from the preface to The Public Value of Science
Lord Robert Winston
...People generally are well-informed and discerning and it should not astonish us that so many view the science we value with suspicion - or even hostility. It should not surprise us that this suspicion is most acute amongst people living in the developed world, from whence much of our advanced technology emanates. Even in long-established democracies, people do not feel that they have ownership, control or even much influence over the technologies that are exploited by their governments and by commercial enterprises.
The scientific community once believed it could assuage public concerns over the misuse of science by better communication of the benefits of scientific knowledge. There has been gradual, sometimes grudging, recognition that mere communication - whilst important - cannot alleviate justifiable anxieties... Expressions of despair at public ignorance, impotent polemics about the advantages of technology, assertions that our economy is threatened by reactionary attitudes, attempts at manipulation of the press, are all totally inadequate responses. Neither will mere lip-service about the value of public engagement be helpful.
... The time is right for examining the means and the details of public engagement. One step forward might be for the scientific community to accept that it does not own the science that it pursues. Another step may be for government to place more value on proper public dialogue, and to facilitate it better.
3.Excerpts from 'The Public Value of Science: Or how to ensure that science really matters'
[The first blind alley is] determinism.The political insistence that we must be pro-science and pro-innovation squeezes out any discussion of what sort of science and innovation we want or need... Policy and regulatory debates tend to assume that a discussion about ends has already occurred - that the economic and social benefits of innovation are obvious and agreed. But this is rarely the case.
A moment's reflection tells us that no one can be pro-innovation in every sense (do we really want better biological weapons? or human reproductive cloning?), but we lack a framework for dealing with the nuanced and complex set of scientific and technological choices that confront us. Particular trajectories are promoted as if there were no alternatives. All too easily, we fall back into a set of polarised debates in which participants are cast as either 'pro-innovation' or 'anti-science'. There is an assumption that choices which are inherently social and political can be determined by 'sound science'. Yet as Andy Stirling reminds us,
"In reality, science seldom yields such unambiguous answers. Technology in any given field rarely unfolds in only one direction. From the energy sector, through chemicals to food and agriculture, it has been shown time and again that science actually delivers radically divergent answers under different reasonable priorities, questions or assumptions."
The second blind alley is reductionism. Even if it is accepted that science cannot be the sole, unproblematic source of authority in these debates, economics is then called on to perform an identical task. Questions about ends and purposes are again airbrushed out, this time to be replaced with the simple calculus of economic growth. We see this tendency in the government's ten-year framework, which constructs the case for more science spending on the twin planks of 'improving the country's future wealth creation prospects' and translating knowledge 'more effectively into business and public service innovation'.
Measuring the contribution of science and technology in primarily economic terms does not rule out the need for forms of public dialogue. Indeed, this can be beneficial as a way of ensuring that 'society's understanding and acceptance of scientific advances moves forward, and does not become a brake on social and economic development'.
But, even where dialogue is permitted, another form of reductionism kicks in, as public concerns are invariably framed in terms of risk. The only question we are allowed to ask is 'Is it safe?', with the implication that the likelihood of certain outcomes is susceptible to rational calculation.
Confronted with scientific and technological choices, we need the freedom and opportunity to ask a broader set of questions than economics or risk assessment will allow. And this is where the notion of public value can prove useful: 'if we assume that science's benefits and costs affect citizens in very different ways ...then public value questions emerge as at least as important as economic ones.'
What is public value?
In 1995, Mark Moore, a Harvard political scientist, published a relatively obscure book on public administration. It put forward the concept of 'public value' as a way of measuring the total benefits both economic and non-economic that flow from public policy and investment.
Moore and his colleagues were unhappy with the way that traditional theories of public administration treated public managers as robots, who neutrally lent their expertise to whatever purposes were handed to them by politicians or the courts. Instead, he argues that civil servants should 'start to challenge the ends of politics, not just the means', and become 'explorers' who are commissioned by society to use their initiative and imagination in the search for better ways of doing things.
Moore opens his book with the story of a librarian, whose library is being overrun with latchkey children at the end of the school day. The librarian considers introducing new rules limiting children's access, but instead opts for a more entrepreneurial solution. By reorganising the library’s layout, and the way she and her colleagues work, she is able to offer a range of improved services, including a children's room, after-school clubs and concerts. As a result, the library is used more often, the children read more books, and the entire community benefits from better facilities. The librarian has succeeded in building public value...
Despite the progress of the science and society agenda, there are still those who maintain that the public are too ignorant to contribute anything useful to scientific decision-making.
One of the most vocal is the Liberal Democrat peer, Dick Taverne. In a letter attacking Nature's editorial on upstream engagement [involving society in discussing scientific and technological developments at an early stage], Taverne rejects 'the fashionable demand by a group of sociologists for more democratic science'. He goes on: 'The fact is that science, like art, is not a democratic activity. You do not decide by referendum whether the earth goes round the sun.'
But Taverne is setting up a straw man. As we emphasised in See-through Science, upstream engagement is not about members of the public standing over the shoulder of scientists in the laboratory, taking votes or holding referendums on what they should or should not be doing. That Taverne can conceive of accountability only in these terms reflects nothing more than the poverty of his own democratic imagination. This agenda is not about imposing cumbersome bureaucratic structures on science, or forcing lay people onto every research funding committee. Questions about structures do need to be considered, but are a sideshow compared with the far more important - and exciting - challenge of building more reflective capacity into the practice of science. As well as bringing the public into new conversations with science, we need to bring out the public within the scientist - by enabling scientists to reflect on the social and ethical dimensions of their work.
We need to break down some of the false oppositions between scientists and the public that critics such as Taverne seek to perpetuate. Those scientists who take part as expert witnesses in public engagement exercises, such as citizens' juries, are frequently surprised at the insight and common sense that ordinary members of the public bring to such interactions. At its most effective, upstream engagement can help to challenge the stereotypes that scientists and policy-makers have of the public. But it is important to start by wiping the slate clean of assumptions about who the public are and what they think.
Public private research
A final point concerns the growing influence of the private sector on university research. In a penetrating new study of the US higher education system, the journalist Jennifer Washburn charts the effects of there being ever closer ties between the public and private research sectors. Echoing the sentiments of Steven Rose, whom we quoted earlier, Washburn concludes:
"Market forces are dictating what is happening in the world of higher education as never before. . . . Universities now routinely operate complex patenting and licensing operations to market their faculty's inventions....The question of who owns academic research has grown increasingly contentious, as the openness and shaping that once characterised university life has given way to a new proprietary culture."
The US is almost certainly a few years ahead of the UK in terms of these trends, but the thrust of the government's ten-year framework and the Lambert Review is to accelerate and multiply public private collaborations wherever possible.
We would emphasise that we are not opposed to this in principle. Collaboration between universities and businesses can be very positive, and there are strong economic arguments why the UK needs a lot more of it. Also, there never was a halcyon day when public science took place completely unsullied by private sector influences. Even an iconic scientific figure such as Galileo routinely integrated monetary and utilitarian interests with his 'natural philosophy', as historians of science have shown.
The question is not if we strengthen such links but how. Can we do it in a way that maintains the openness and integrity of academic research cultures? In what ways will an increasing role for business in university life support or impede efforts to move research cultures in a more socially reflective and publicly engaged direction? Under what conditions can private sector investment generate public value, and when might it undermine it?
Reviewing Washburn's book in the Financial Times, Alan Ryan, the warden of New College, Oxford, was compelled to wonder 'what a British version of Washburn might uncover. British universities have lately been encouraged to engage in aggressive patenting and licensing and it is hard to believe that they do not run the dangers she describes.'
There is a pressing need to examine some of these tensions and discuss them honestly, rather than pretend that no such problems will ever arise. This area would benefit from more detailed analysis and scrutiny by the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee. Such an inquiry could also incorporate some of the questions about military influences on university science and technology that were raised in a recent report by Scientists for Global Responsibility.
Few ministerial speeches about science and innovation are now complete without an obligatory reference to China and India. These two vast, heterogeneous nations home to a third of the world's population are perpetually conjoined in a form of political shorthand designed to convey the onward march of globalisation.
We also need to be alert to the way these new 'science powers' are used to argue for a more relaxed stance on social, ethical or environmental issues here in the UK. Tony Blair's speech to the Royal Society in 2002 is a notable example:
"The idea of making this speech has been in my mind for some time. The final prompt for it came, curiously enough, when I was in Bangalore in January. I met a group of academics, who were also in business in the biotech field. They said to me bluntly: 'Europe has gone soft on science; we are going to leapfrog you and you will miss out.' They regarded the debate on GM here and elsewhere in Europe as utterly astonishing. They saw us as completely overrun by protestors and pressure groups who used emotion to drive out reason. And they didn't think we had the political will to stand up for proper science."
Those of us who advocate more socially responsive and accountable forms of science and innovation need to take this 'Wild East' argument seriously. But we believe it is possible to mount a robust response. Our first defence has to be that this is a counsel of despair, the logical end point of which is a set of lowest-common- denominator standards not just for science, but also for labour rights, civil liberties and environmental standards. Just as on these other issues, there is a clear progressive case for public value science. It is also misleading, not to mention deeply patronising, to pretend that people in India and China don't share many of these same concerns albeit expressed in a variety of ways.
In his latest book, The Argumentative Indian, Amartya Sen offers a colourful account of the role that public reasoning, dialogue and debate have played through India’s history. He effectively dispels some of the myths and stereotypes of India as a land of exoticism and mysticism, or the new high-tech, back office of the global economy. And he reminds us that although it has not always taken a Western representative form, there is this deep seam of democracy, or ‘government by discussion’ running through Indian culture. He tells the story of how, just before the Indian general elections in the spring of 2004, he visited a Bengali village not far from his home, and was told by an elderly man who was barely literate and certainly very poor: 'It is not very hard to silence us, but this is not because we cannot speak.'
So, although it is often claimed that democracy is a quintessentially Western idea and practice with a direct lineage running from ancient Athens to the White House such a view neglects the many varieties of public discussion and public reasoning that have always existed in India, and exist today in most cultures. Even in China, where there is less freedom to debate such issues in formal terms, the environmental and social consequences of rapid technological development are now becoming the focus of intense political debate, and at times public protest.
The way our politics describes the relationships between science, globalisation and competitiveness must start to reflect these subtleties. Instead of seeing the UK's progress towards more democratic models of science as a barrier to our success in the global knowledge economy, can it not become a different form of advantage? Might it not lead us down new and potentially preferable paths of innovation? The evidence we have from the environmental sphere suggests that countries can gain competitive advantage from the adoption of higher standards.
We nee d to explore whether similar patterns can emerge here. There may also be insights from scientific governance, ethics and public deliberation that we can exchange and export. We need to develop networks that allow policy-makers and scientists in Europe to forge common purpose and alliances on these issues with their counterparts in Asia.
These are difficult issues and we do not pretend they can be easily resolved. But they bring us back to where we started: the fundamental questions of why we do science, where it is taking us, and who it is for. Tony Blair's speech to the Royal Society, in which he warned of emotion driving out reason, was titled 'Science matters'. Our argument has been that, yes, science does matter. But it matters for more than narrow, economic reasons. We need to talk, and occasionally to argue, about why this is so. And we need to infuse the cultures and practices of science with this richer and more open set of social possibilities. This is how, together, we can build public value.