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Science, Money, and Politics:
Science, in the abstract, is supposed to be nonpolitical, even to transcend politics entirely. In truth, though, science is always conditioned by political reality--and by money.
So writes journalist Daniel Greenberg in this wide-ranging indictment of the way in which science is conducted in the United States. Although funding for scientific research has been readily available since the end of World War II, he maintains, research bureaucrats have transformed the enterprise into "a clever, well-financed claimant for money" and the successful quest for that funding into a condition of employment and advancement. Given that climate, Greenberg suggests, basic research has suffered, so that many diseases go unconquered, while more politically glamorous investigations are rewarded. Increasingly corporatized--industry, he writes, accounts for two-thirds of all research and development dollars spent, and its "profit-seeking values" are radiating throughout the culture--scientific research is insufficiently policed and criticized, watched over only by the inmates. In the rush for funding, Greenberg argues, science becomes increasingly subject to ethical lapses, with scientists too easily endorsing dubious causes such as the so-called Star Wars missile-defense system and too readily putting human subjects in danger.
Greenberg's arguments are broad but well supported, and his book is sure to excite controversy within the scientific community. Lay readers, however, will also find it of much interest. --Gregory McNamee [via]