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F34PPP #5: Is Science A Public Good?

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  1. F34PPP #5: Is Science A Public Good? Philip Moriarty School of Physics & Astronomy philip.moriarty@nottingham.ac.uk @Moriarty2112 www.nottingham.ac.uk/physics/research/nano

  2. Last time… • Peer Review • Sokal, the Bogdanov affair, and nano chopsticks • Hendrik Schoen • “Fashionable Nonsense” • Next gen peer review

  3. Today • Why should governments fund science? • And why should we do science in the first place?

  4. Merton’s CUDOS norms Robert K. Merton (1910-2003) The ethos (norms) of science (1942) - “CUDOS” • Commun(al)ism. Results stemming from academic science should be public knowledge. • Universalism. Contributions should not be excluded on the basis of race, nationality, religion, social status etc… • Disinterestedness. “The remarkable fact about the norm of disinterestedness is that it is so well observed” [Ziman] • Originality • Scepticism. Underpins academia – peer review

  5. Ziman – “Post-academic” science https://www.bloomsburycollections.com/book/a-manifesto-for-the-public-university/ch4-science-as-a-public-good

  6. Disinterest and Objectivity “In effect, post-academic science tries to combine, often in the same individual, two modes of knowledge that are ethically incompatible. Disinterested science is essentially a moral enterprise sustained by a tacit ethos of mutual trust. This ethos is being fundamentally undermined by enforced cohabitation with instrumental research.” [Ziman]

  7. Disinterest and Objectivity?

  8. Aubrey Blumsohn and P&G • BMJ 340 22 (2010) • Led study (with Prof. Richard Eastell) on efficacy of drug developed by Procter and Gamble (P&G) [$1 bn per year] • Blumsohn was denied access by P&G to raw data from clinical trials. • P&G distorted data (left out negative results) and wrote up papers in Blumsohn and Eastell’s name. • Blumsohn made the media aware of this....

  9. Aubrey Blumsohn and P&G • ...and was suspended from The University of Sheffield. • General Medical Council (GMC) upheld Blumsohn’s complaint – access to data means raw data. • Not (only) research misconduct – breach of contract. http://scientific-misconduct.blogspot.com/

  10. Closer to home

  11. www.softmachines.org/wordpress/?p=1213

  12. What do the economists say? “...the channels through which basic research yields economic payoffs are so complex, and the assumptions necessary to develop estimates of the returns on an investment in basic research are so fragile and unrealistic, that this exercise is of little use in guiding actual policy decisions” Paul David (1992)

  13. “...no reliable indicator has been developed of the benefits derived from publicly funded basic research.” • “... it is almost impossible to measure the extent to which a sector ... gains economic benefits from the publicly-funded research infrastructure...” • “...there are considerable economic benefits to the public funding of basic research. These benefits are often subtle, heterogeneous, difficult to track or measure, and mostly indirect”. • “Public funding for basic research is, like many areas of government spending (e.g. defence), not easy to justify solely in terms of measuring economic benefits”. Excerpts from Salter and Martin (2001) - a review commissioned by The Treasury.

  14. Are these just the bleatings of a reactionary academic? Over to you…