Off Topic – The Biggest Threat to Science

I just read a great article in Discover Magazine‘s October 2007 issue, p.66. The article is called Science Under Siege, by Jennifer Washburn.

I have not found the article on the Internet, probably because the issue – billed as The State of Science in America – is still in newstands. This is the first time I’ve seen this magazine.

The article is about threats to scientific objectivity and innovation from recent trends in research funding. It talks about such things as the effect of the Bayh-Dole Act of 1980, which granted universities and professors rights to federally funded research; how private funding sources often hide unfavorable research results; how moneyed interests stir up doubt and spur controversy to stave off the negative effects of troublesome facts on business (a method apparently pioneered by the tobacco industry); and how “[s]cientific advisory panels are frequently filled with experts who have close financial ties to the same industries that manufacture the products they review.”

Over the years, I have witnessed the negative effects on science and medicine discussed in this article. The article makes a pretty good case for the underlying causes, and the urgency of restoring integrity in science.

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