Monday, March 30

"Science as Social Contract"

In March 24th's New York Times an article was published called, "NOAA Chief Believes in Science as Social Contract." The article talks about Dr. Jane Lubcheno (the new chief of the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration) and her push for public involvement and for discussion among all parties involved in certain situations.

Some of the statements that stuck out to me were:

  • "According to conventional scientific wisdom, researchers cannot spare time for public involvement, much less public service."
  • "Jane Lubcheno has long urged scientists to abandon the habitual reticence of the research community and spend more time engaging the public and public official about scientific and technical issues."
  • "...Dr. Lubcheno called for 'a new social contract' for science, aimed at helping policy makers take steps to sustain the biosphere."
  • In response to the "dismal state of many of the nation's fisheries...[Dr. Lubcheno said], fishing communities, scientists, regulators and other stakeholders in the debate need to overcome a legacy of bitterness and distrust."

What was most striking to me was how Lubcheno’s stance/view is very similar to Kitcher, and how she portrays what Kitcher states to be a part of a scientist’s obligations. The steps that Lubcheno is taking and proposing are the very similar to the steps that Kitcher describes as the steps to well-ordered science. For on pg. 195-96 of Science, Truth, and Democracy, the steps to well-ordered science are: 1) Self-awareness of the current gap, 2) Telling the truth (obligation to tell the truth), 3) Public awareness, and 4) Being an advocate for the public (and if these steps don’t work one is to abandon their research). Lubcheno is well aware of the gap between many scientists, what is being done in science, public policy, and the public. I would assume that she also knows the importance of being truthful with her fellow scientists, public policy makers, and the public. What Lubcheno is currently doing is not only educating the public, fellow scientists and public policy makers, but also advocating the education.

I think that what Lubcheno is doing and what Kitcher has proposed is important for good scientific progress. Scientists when pursuing their line of research need to be aware of the impact whether good or bad their findings can have. Also, it is important for scientists to not only be truthful with themselves about the impacts but also those funding the research (the government, universities, etc), those who will make decisions based off of the findings (policy makers, other scientists), and the public (where the money is in actuality is coming from, and who the findings will impact the most). However, this truth by the scientist must be reciprocated by all other parties involved, for without truth on all sides groups being honest, one can assume that those who are honest will be taken advantage of. In the end this will hopefully lead to open discussions between everyone involved about current research, and also about potential/future research projects that promote the interests of all parties.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.