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M. Norton Wise Thoughts on the Politicization of Science through Commercialization POLITICIZATION THE CURRENT POLITICIZATION OF SCIENCE— BY W H I C H I MEAN THE attem pt politically to control the content of knowledge and not just the direction of research—is arguably unprecedented in history, aside from a few famous and anom alous examples like the Galileo and Lysenko affairs.1Although complaints have been developing for years, the first major public protest against the abuse of science by the current administration in the United States was the statem ent published by the Union of Concerned Scientists in February 2004, “Scientific Integrity in Policymaking: An Investigation into the Bush Administration’s Misuse of Science.” It charged the administration with “a well-established pattern of suppression and distortion of scientific findings by high-ranking Bush adm inistration political appointees across num erous federal agencies” and w ith “a wide-ranging effort to manipulate the government’s scien­ tific advisory system to prevent the appearance of advice that m ight run counter to the adm inistration’s political agenda.”2Its signatories grew to include thousands of scientists and many former government officials, with 48 Nobel laureates, 62 National Medal of Science recipients, and 135 members of the National Academy of Sciences (Mooney, 2005: 225). This consensus is as unprecedented as the scope of the abuses it protests. social research Vol 73 : No 4 : W inter 2006 1253 Chris Mooney, in The Republican War on Science, provides a well docum ented account of the origins of the recent political m anipula­ tion of science, which goes back to the 1970s but flourished after the Republican takeover of Congress in 1994 know n as the “Gingrich Revolution,” w ith its assault on federal regulation. The signal event was the dism antling of the Office of Technology Assessment, which had functioned for 24 years as Congress’s source of independent advice on issues of science and technology. The tactics of the Gingrich assault were borrowed from the long experience of the tobacco industry in defusing claims of the harm ful effects of sm oking—simply to fund their own research, which ended up casting doubt on the certainty of the claims even w hen it did not contradict them. The effectiveness of the technique is shown by a 1998 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) on review articles of research done on second­ hand smoke, which showed that a “not harm ful” conclusion was 88.4 times higher if authors had industry affiliation (Mooney, 2005:10). Increasingly im portant in the new version of this alternative research technique have been think tanks with sponsorship from indus­ tries seeking to block regulation: the American Enterprise Institute, Heritage Foundation, Pacific Legal Foundation, George C. M arshall Institute, Annapolis Center for Science-Based Policy, and others. But perhaps m ost intriguing in Mooney’s analysis is his account of the adoption by opponents of regulation of a systematic rhetorical strat­ egy. Research results that opposed or m inim ized the need for regula­ tion, typically industrially funded, would be labeled “sound science” while pro-regulation research, typically carried on at universities and governm ent laboratories, would be labeled “junk science” in the inter­ est of m anufacturing scientific doubt (Mooney, 2005: 65-76). The genius in this move is that the term “sound science” has been picked up in reporting by the m ainstream m edia, often w ithout recognizing its loaded m eaning or that it is inscribed in such conservative organiza­ tions as the Advancement o f Sound Science Coalition. A countermove on the part of the Union of Concerned Scientists to recapture rhetorical control has apparently not been so effective. Its Sound Science Initiative 1254 social research is an “email-based vehicle for scientists to respond to and influence fastbreaking media and policy developments on environm ental issues.”3 Examples of the overt attem pts to control the content of science during the current adm inistration could be taken from virtually any area of political significance: global warm ing, endangered species, ozone depletion, chemical pollution, or oil drilling, w ithout even enter­ ing the fraught areas of abortion, stem cells...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1944-768X
Print ISSN
0037-783X
Pages
pp. 1253-1272
Launched on MUSE
2014-04-30
Open Access
No
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