A quick look at the back catalogue of the EuroScientist provides an illustration of the wide range of issues that affect the working lives of scientists today. Previous articles have covered research evaluation, the open access movement, career structures and responsible innovation, among many others. These issues are often dealt with individually—and rightly so given their complexity. But considered as a whole, they help to make up a culture. And scientists must work within this culture to do what they set out to do: usually, to produce high quality, ethical research that is of benefit to society.
In the past few years, several scientists he have become a lightning-rod for the environmental and the anti-big business movements, while ignoring any scientific shortcomings others might highlight in their studies. Indeed, their popularity has grown outside scientific circles to the point that they are now paraded almost as scientific proof that science itself is wrong. Increasingly, there are more and more European instances where ideology triumphs over scientific rationale. Enters the new post-modern Sociology of Science, which soothingly offers cultural reasons for why some scientific proposals and conclusions are unacceptable to citizens.
European Science is dead! This is due to the lingering crisis that has stricken science’s investment and human resources, especially in Southern Europe. In those countries, the scientific community has been forced to stall research activities. Long live European Science! Science is the way out from the recession. Investment in R&D is correlated with the growth of the gross domestic product. It will help Europe continue to be a global cultural reference.
Science is closely linked with society. And yet, despite its close interdependency with society, science demands autonomy – the right to organise its discovery processes according to its own rules and some freedom to select research topics in accordance with its own agenda. Since society now widely recognises the economic and political importance of science, it has come under scrutiny. Its demands for autonomy are now contested.
Power up the voice of the scientific crowd!
Two years on from the disaster that struck Japan on 11th March 2011, there is much silence related to the scientific reality on the ground in Fukushima. One specific example of deliberate omission of scientific data is found in a multimedia site published by the French CNRS and intended for the general public, that does not reflect all currently available scientific data related to nuclear energy.
“I always turn to the sports section first. The sports page records people’s accomplishments; the front page has nothing but man’s failures”. ~Earl Warren
Just a couple of weeks ago Marc Hauser was in the news, again. He is known as one of the world’s leading evolutionary biologists and teaches at the Psychology Department at Harvard University. His work focused on primate behaviour and animal cognition. Hauser has been awarded science medals from the US and France and he has published about 200 articles in research journals. However, the latest news coverage is based on accusations against Hauser as the Harvard faculty suspend him while investigations are carried out for “scientific misdemeanour”.