Samantha Blaisdell

Research Engineer, Southwest Research Institute


This conversation is closed.

How immune should science be from the political environment of its time?

Many scientists have been affected by the political environment of their time. Max Planck, the father of quantum mechanics, protested the German treatment of Jewish scientists and professors as he watched his friends become dismissed from their positions. Similarly, Walther Nernst openly voiced criticisms of the Nazis and was forced to end his career as a scientist. More recently, President Obama overturned the Bush administrations' limit on federal tax dollars towards stem cell research. President Obama also supports scientific efforts towards a clean energy economy. If political leaders do not encourage scientific research, proper funding will not be allocated. However, much research has been made possible by involvement due to politics. Do you think there should be a separation between science and politics?

Closing Statement from Samantha Blaisdell

Thank you all for joining me in this conversation. It really helped me to solidify my own beliefs towards political involvement in my scientific endeavors. Hopefully others have gained from this experience as well!

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    Feb 1 2012: I don't think a separation between science and politics is desirable -- but that clearly, interests of specific parties to instrumentalize science for their political agenda should be prevented. I think politics can be a vector to foster the understanding for scientific advancement for the great public... oftentimes, science seems to be an abstract value for those who do not partake in its advancement. Both science and politics serve humanity, both need our support and engagement to work for our future.
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      Feb 1 2012: That just what I wanted to post, a separation is not truly possible nor desirable. Science without control can be harmful, science with too much control is inefficient - as such a certain balance must be found.

      And since you mention President Obama I wanted to add that Newt Gingrich supports space exploration ;)
      • Feb 1 2012: Just to keep it in perspective, Newt told Floridians that he supports a moon base right before their primary. Bush announced his Mars mission idea in the same time frame of 2004. I wonder why that is? ;)

        Not pushing any candidate here, just saying space seems to be a pretty common theme right before the Fl presidential primary. Then nothing more is ever heard.
    • Feb 2 2012: It should be noted that politics seems to be an abstract value for those who do not partake in its advancement either, if I take your meaning accurately, Simone.

      I am incredibly nervous about governments getting involved directly with science. Most of their direct involvment has created the hideous engines of destruction throughout history and the surveillance nets we are living with today. Would independent scientists come up with the atomic bomb if unfunded by the US government? Probably, but would it have ever been used as a weapon?

      I'm not taking the position that all goverments are immoral; I'm taking the position that, like the rest of us individuals, governments will use technology to their advantage if unrestrained - only the playing field they use is much much larger than the rest of us use (excluding corporations) and the impacts much broader.

      I do think that governments can increase the well being of its population by supporting scientific education.
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        Feb 3 2012: When you say "supporting" scientific education, do you mean funding or influencing or both? Are you referring to secondary school education or higher education? I feel strongly about the separation of school and state.
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    Feb 1 2012: I want a government that is interested in the general well-being of society. I want my elected officials to allocate funds to a broad spectrum of agendas, and I think that science is now and should always be at the top of the list of our priorities (both as a nation and as a global community).
    • Feb 2 2012: Well Mr. Reeves, how does it feel to want? ( ain't happening ) Elected politicians, allocate funds to their own special interests. That is how they are paid! That is how they get rich! That is how this country rocks! With respect to ya! :)
      • Feb 6 2012: So there is nothing done because it is the right thing to do? Advances in medicine, engineering, technology, etc. were all done only to fatten the wallet of a politician? It appears that your negative outlook on life has consumed you. Much needs to change, but don't overlook the good that is.
        • Feb 7 2012: Hi Mr. Kather, I don't have a negative view of life, just big government. I actually agree with Mr. Reeves. I know about the good it has done. It is the silly, special interests. I am against, they keep getting their money? The current government could not, do the right thing, if their pants were on fire. :)
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      Feb 3 2012: I want that too!
  • Feb 1 2012: Science faces a massive threat to its independence owing to the commercial influences that are ubiquitously driving the research agenda, patent and publish is the priority at our universities now not independent scholarship. If scientists wish to remain politically acquiescent while academic freedom is eroded for profit driven science then they are effectively contributing to the destruction of their discipline.
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      Feb 3 2012: I completely agree and I find this to be very depressing. I suppose Planck and Nernst didn't have the societal pressures and commercial influences that present-day academia faces. It would certainly be unfair for today's researchers to seek independence from government politics while concurrently catering to their own academic politics.
      • Feb 4 2012: Yes it is depressing Samantha so what is there to be done? All change comes from the bottom up, so those of us passionate about our research, who feel strongly about the exploitation of science for private gain or unethical purposes rather than the benefit of humanity must begin a debate on campuses everywhere. These societal pressures and commercial influences may exist however we do not have to accept them if they impede or undermine the principled conduct of scientific research.
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    Feb 1 2012: Looking at Galileo's troubles with the church and state, and fast forwarding to what's happened with stem cell research under various different American political administrations, or the arguments over whither global warming it's clear that science will never be immune to political/ideological fads and influences. One can hope that science will be valued by any civilized society, but that has not shown itself to be the case in the U.S. Perhaps scientists should be hyper aware of political winds and think of themselves as stewards if you will. They must shelter their work from the storms of ideology and whenever possible develop a depth of resources that will help free them from dependence on political institutions.
    • Feb 5 2012: Hi Kathy: You bring up an excellent point about scientists having to be aware of the political climate in which they work. There will always be some tension between political and scientific agendas. However, scientists who are well informed about the political/legal aspects of their work are in a better position to get around the bureaucratic red tape and continue their research. Scientists working in the field of stem cell research, for example, were able to continue their work even under the strict constraints imposed by the Bush administration (though perhaps not as rapidly as they would have in a more favorable political environment). Despite the obstacles that they faced during the Bush years, tissue engineers made remarkable progress toward the goal of growing functional stem-cell-based tissue in a laboratory setting. To sum up, I believe that the scientist’s job description has changed over the years. A term that I have heard to describe the scientist of today is the “Renaissance scientist” – someone who has expertise not only in his or her technical field, but also in politics, law, business, etc.
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        Feb 7 2012: I must admit that my thoughts on this are very circular. Like many people have said, the ability of science or researchers to ask questions and innovate is critical to moving forward as a people. Without it, there is stagnation. However, scientific pursuit needs to be bounded by a moral code. Throughout history, this "moral code" or regulation has been imposed by government, whether secular or religious. Atrocities have happened where research went unchecked, so it certainly makes sense that a minimum regulation should be applied. However, (and here the thoughts turn around to nip at the tail of science) government is run by people who are just as susceptible to lapses in code as scientists. From where does their regulation come?

        Really, I would say that Veronica beautifully pinpointed the reality of the need for a "Renaissance scientist", one that is able to navigate the political and social agendas of the time.
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    Feb 4 2012: Great question and some great answers and points made! There are a couple of ideas that I want to float. First, science, just like anything else cognitive, cannot be divorced from our preconceptions. There are cognitive biases that we all have, and it is very difficult to disentangle ourselves from their web. Yes, even scientists come at their science with these biases, and more often that not they just get propagated. It is nearly impossible to publish anything that diverges from the narrow path of the current dogma for this very reason. On the other hand, stuff that is radical should be scrutinized more closely. It is this tight rope that we all walk in science, and I contend that we all fall victim to bias and conflict. But should science really be elevated above all other modes of thought? This seems short-sighted, as the human brain requires a great variety of inputs to think well. Furthermore, a national and global conversation that is needed about how to advance our knowledge cannot and should not be limited to science alone. There should be no hierarchy in how we approach learning -- humanities, social sciences, music, science, and yes, even religion, all give context to what we learn. Finally, someone asked what science is. To me the best way to answer is by referring to Karl Popper, who defined scientific questions as those questions that are disprovable.
  • Feb 1 2012: Politics should be an extension of, and means of attaining, the needs and wants of a people of a time and place. Ascertaining the truth about the world we live in is always a necessity. Ergo, funding for scientific research should be a political priority insofar as the truth about the state of affairs we face in the world is a priority: we are none of us immune from the truth. That being said, I think the question is: should scientific opinion be up for sale or, to put it another way, should scientists be subject to political pressure in the form of public funding. My opinion is linked to my first assertion. Insofar as ascertaining the truth is essential to our continued flourishing on this Earth, the outcome of dispassionate inquiry should not be subject to the duress of public opinion. Public opinion is transient; it changes with the times. Ironically, this is usually as a result of disinterested men working outside the reach of the vulgar mobs and their prejudices. In other words, knowledge of the truth slowly molds public opinion, mellows, filters, and civilizes it. We have to be far-sighted enough, respectful enough of the truth, wary enough of relativistic nonsense in popular thought to understand that truth stands outside of opinion and that we do ourselves and our posterity a disservice if we try essentially to bribe men of learning to tell us what we want to hear.
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    Feb 4 2012: Politics is meant to protect the people's interests. Research needs regulation or else people can take advantage of others. Any attempt at regulating research would ultimately become some facet of politics because we do not have some supreme being overseeing research.

    I have a few examples which lays out the negative climate of research.
    First: a lot of people have LASIK performed to correct their eyesight. The very first instance of a group of people conducting experiments to correct eyesight with that method (or a very crude version of that method) was during WWII. Because Asians have a higher chance of having Myopia, this was very problematic for the Japanese pilots. The Japanese started to experiment on POWs as well as their own men. They would extract the cornea from their eyes with surgical knives, freeze them, then mill on the frozen cornea as if it was glass material for contact lenses, then try reintroducing the cornea into the eyeballs. Success rate was like around 10%.
    Second: homeless people in homeless shelters are used as guinea pigs for drug trials. One, this is an unethical treatment towards the lower classes. Two, this also risks the end users as the drug trials are not accurate as I doubt the researchers took into account the medical history of the homeless.
    Third: neurobiologists need people with brain disorders, brain injuries, etc. I've read that in a certain European country (I forget which), doctors at clinics are allowed to make their patients participate in studies, which may have certain risk factors that the patient may not approve of. Researchers are also allowed to conduct experiments on prison inmates.

    To conclude, sometimes research are not ethical, but it is definitely welcomed as the results are beneficial. Do we ignore ethics while conducting research? Do we form some organization to enforce ethics? Who defines ethics? Won't those who define ethics be participating in politics?
  • Feb 2 2012: The question is entirely hypothetical. No field of human endeavour is, or can ever be, entirely divorced from any other.

    The modern notion of 'democracy' is looking increasingly flawed. If you could remove the influence of politics from science, how would this make the world a better place?

    If you are suggesting scientists should be trusted to act without constraints, your faith in the 'dispassionate scientist' caricature seems somewhat misplaced.
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      Feb 3 2012: A "separation" can refer to a conditional separation and does not necessarily mean "entirely divorced". I agree with you (and others on here) that both politics and science serve humanity and will likely always influence each other despite efforts for independence and separation.

      Your last sentence confuses me though. I do think scientists should be trusted to act without constraints. Or, they should be trusted to act no differently than any other law-abiding citizen, scientist or not. Why should a constraint be placed on a scientist? Can't anybody declare themselves to be a scientist if they are seeking knowledge?
      • Feb 3 2012: Some interesting points . . . largely science-centric, it seems to me, though. The idea that anyone seeking knowledge is a scientist is a case in point - there are many ways of seeking knowledge, only a small proportion of which could be described as scientific. Knowledge has been sought - and found - long before we had anything truly recognisable as science.

        Don't get me wrong, I'm not a luddite; but to give science some 'special dispensation' to act without constraint is to pretend scientists are immune to normal human frailties.

        Normal law-abiding citizens are subject to specific constraints based on their activities - you are allowed to be much more inebriated as a pedestrian than as a driver, for example.

        The constraints should be based on the potential damage of things going wrong - in my opinion, rules around genetically-modified organisms are way too lax, for example; and the science is driven not by a quest for knowledge, but a quest for profit.
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          Feb 7 2012: This reminds me strongly of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. If you haven't read it, it's very different from what you might expect from movies and cartoons: the scientist Victor Frankenstein creates his monster out of an obsession with discovery and the development of his experimental abilities, of course not considering the impact of his work on himself and others. I had to read this classic before I started my freshman year at an engineering school, and I'm glad I did. True, Shelley was a novelist--NOT a scientist--but it made it clear to me that scientists cannot be left to their own devices. I am not in any way anti-discovery, but society is held responsible for what becomes of discoveries. Just as individuals yield to society when it comes to administering justice and order, scientists must yield to society when it comes to making discoveries that have the potential to make broad social impacts. I reject 'vigilante science' like I reject vigilante justice.
        • Feb 7 2012: Ed, I largely agree with your point, but I think that using the researchers' profit motive as a justification for more regulation on genetically-modified organisms is troubling. If science is to be regulated on a cost-benefit basis, the motivation for scientific exploration, whether greater knowledge or wider profit margins, should not play a role in determining the need for constraints on experimentation. That being said, I feel that the potential for environmental harm is certainly a valid reason to insist upon more control of gmo development.
      • Feb 7 2012: There are analogies with situations such as climate change - which many people in the US now think is disputed by scientists, rather than there being a near-consensus amongst scientists, with a lot of counter-information from lobbyists funded by the oil industry. Similarly, the true harm caused by cigarettes was kept hidden by tobacco companies so they could avoid litigation - ie, because of the profit motive. (For those of you in the UK, there's a film on Film 4 this evening called 'The Insider' on this subject that's well worth a watch).

        The thinking and arguments supporting the widespread use of GMOs also has parallels with the derivatives market, which in part caused the downfall of the financial systems around the world. Things are being sold as safe and profitable, and of benefit to the poor, when they are not. The big difference is, when parts of the global food production system collapse, it won't mean people losing jobs, but their lives.
    • Feb 8 2012: Wonderfully insightful ! Science provides a way and Politic apply the way.
  • Feb 1 2012: It is true that governments (and large private organizations) are able to support scientific research in away that makes great progress. But where do we turn for truth? How do we discern that the research and the results reflect truth and don't cater to biased motivations or special interest agendas?
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      Feb 1 2012: Wonderful projects are funded by government - DARPA (Defense Advance Research Projects Agency) used taxpayer money to develop the predecessor to the internet. There have been regulations and limitations established by the NIH when applying for grants that help to exclude special interests. Unfortunately, the public access policy that the NIH currently employs (requiring work to be free and available to the general public) is under fire by large corporations under the Research Works Acts. This piece of legislature would slow the progress made by the vast majority of researchers, perhaps even biasing their results. So, while some government involvement is important, too much is also detrimental.
      • Feb 2 2012: Hi Dionne, wonderful projects funded by the government, are funded by wonderful taxpayers! DARPA , should be cut from the expensive way of living. ( the government ) Too much! Come on, people! :)
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      Feb 7 2012: Hi Gina,
      You raise a serious issue which has been brought up in several of these mini threads. How do we ensure that the research that is being done and published is quote on quote good science. Unfortunately, there is no great answer to this question as the academic pressures involved in research whether the research is funded by the government or privately are extremely high and therefore cases can be seen in each where data was falsified. Whether, a more standardized system of checking the accuracy of research can be created may be to great a task to try and take on, possibly only hindering the progression and distribution of ideas through the scientific community. On the flip side it would reduce the amount of wasted funds given to projects based unknowingly on falsified research.

      On the topic of slowing the advancement and dissemination of new ideas and technologies, political interference is obviously a hot topic issue. While there have been many comments on the need for checks on scientific pursuits, the set of ethics on which scientific pursuits are judged should have a very narrow scope and should not expand to the area of religious beliefs. Rather it must be based solely on generally agreed upon moral issues. We cannot expect that everyone, will be of the same mindset especially once religion is brought into the equation. We also should not hold others to our own belief system. Therefore, it should be up to the researcher whether or not they have personal conflicting beliefs with the work being asked of them and should be able to choose their project accordingly. We should not, however, hold everyone to these elevated restrictions.
  • Feb 1 2012: There should be a clear separation between politics and science when it comes to specific research or to results. The government has a duty to not spend money on frivolous research so it is entirely appropriate for funding agencies to limit the topical areas they are interested in funding. On many issues the government will approve funding research that might support a specific political position and they will not fund research in areas that might provide an inconvenient truth. A more balanced approach should be taken so multiple sides of an issue are considered.

    I have done some research that was government funded and have been around other funded projects. it is common for buzz words to be sprinkled into the proposals and resulting articles to help get a grant or to help obtain future grants. I have never personally known of results to be falsified for ideological reasons but I have seen poor design in articles I have reviewed that dressed the article up in the cloak of independent research when in reality the hypothesis was not falsifiable.
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      Feb 3 2012: I agree with you that there should be separation when it comes to specific research, but how would this even work? Who would be in charge of deciding which research will provide "inconvenient truths"? Unfortunately, I think this would require a completely different type of government structure, and even then, there would still be a political influence. If scientists were able to join in this decision process, wouldn't they then become politicians themselves? With their own perspectives of what is worth funding and what isn't?

      I have also been surrounded by government-funded projects and agree with you about the sprinkling of buzz words and I find it sad. Even if government funding didn't exist (or even the idea of money in general), falsification of research results would still be an issue because of politics among researchers in the pursuit of recognition, career advancement, etc.
  • Feb 8 2012: Science and Politic are mutual. We would be able to balance ourselves between idealism and pragmatism.

    I do not know much about science , but I can surely say that politics are more influential than science in short-term, or vice versa.

    We can compare them as Left and Right hemispher of our brain.
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    Feb 7 2012: No, politics and law must not be separated from economy.

    If you want economy to thrive once again, politicians must create laws that enlighten people by changing education paradigm.

    Not everyone is chosen to be beautiful.
    Not everyone is chosen to be a diplomat.
    Not everyone is chosen to be intelligent.
    Not everyone is chosen to be worthy.

    It's a gift, and gift is what you can give or take by force.
    That is what rules the Universe and World => Force!

    We need order, not the chaos.
    We have chaos, not the order.

    Thus, we need tools, not the money.
    We have tools, but not the money.

    Enjoy the paradox.
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    Feb 7 2012: There is a great necessity for science and innovation to be free of constraints and unbounded by the political agenda of the time period. This is essential to the advancement of science, as well as humanity as a whole. However, as with everything in life, there should be a balance and equilibrium. In this case, it is a moral and ethical balance between politicians and scientists. Scientists should be allowed to perform research which would benefit humanity in the future. Politicians should understand the importance of scientific advancement and ignore what is beneficial for just their public persona. Most of the money needed for this scientific research, however, does come from the government, seemingly giving politicians the upper hand in what today’s science is composed of.

    A moral and ethical barrier should be established by the political environment, as there are various experiments and research opportunities which could be perceived as interesting, but are clearly unethical (See Tuskegee syphilis experiment, Unit 371, Dr. Money Experiment, etc.) This is not to say that scientists have no ethical boundaries or morals, but instead that they are sometimes inclined to perform studies to prove a point, or to obtain a much needed result, thereby traumatizing the subjects. By allowing for a balance between the two, resources can be allocated efficiently for the advancement of humanity.
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    Feb 7 2012: The issue at hand here is how scientific research can be an independent venture, free from outside influences. You propose that if research was detached from politics, scientific research could develop without being affected by the political atmosphere of the time. This is obviously a very real problem. There are tons of examples of government money being shifted away from research that is not in line with the opinions of the majority party, and this should not happen.
    The problem is that without government funding, where else will the money come from? The only other place to turn is private enterprise, which has its own real issues. When scientific research is in the hands of private companies, it becomes a business venture instead of a pursuit of knowledge. Researchers are pressured to get results that are profitable above all else.
    Your question is a valid one and an extremely serious one. For the time being, government funding seems to make more sense, but eventually we must find a way to make science completely independent and pure.
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      Feb 7 2012: We need to build bridges towards common Ethics. Not to put it in a frame, but to set it free.
    • Feb 8 2012: Balance is the most difficult thing human being can achieve.

      The chaotic ,,,, a reason behind the chaotic,,,
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    Feb 7 2012: There have been many instances where politics interfering with sciences has led to problems. Many of these instances have been seen during Bush's era. For example, in 2004, Bush interfered with decisions made in NASA in "Vision for Space Exploration." This led to conflict, as money was distributed incorrectly in expert's eyes. Furthermore, in 2005 the EPA set higher standards on mercury regulations. Soon enough, 14 states challenged these standards in federal court. Finally, the most well known dispute was regarding stem cell research. While stem cell research has advanced society in many ways, Bush still cut off funds in 2001 leading to controversy. Even though such conflict arose and will always arise, it is unavoidable. Politicians feel the need to get involved as a strategy. They may believe that through getting involved in the debates in science they may attain a political advantage. However, at times, through looking to help themselves, they may hurt many others.
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    Feb 7 2012: I doubt science and politics can be independent of each other. A lot of large scale or costly science experiments or discovery is not achievable without government funding. And at the same time political favoritism can suppress improvement in some area or direct into wrong direction. Science and politics affect each other in some degree. It is impossible and unrealistic to separate them. It needs a well balanced degree of influence between them. Yea, that is the difficult part.
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    Feb 7 2012: I think what politics has 'wrong' when it comes to science is that it assumes that people have some control over science and what it reveals-- in a way that science follows what people do. Really its the other way around-- science is all there in nature, and we're just trying to put it together and understand what nature is doing. If this is the case, inevitably politics will skew science by placing values and judgments on it, values taken from our experience as humans..
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    Feb 6 2012: Great question Samantha! What is and what ought to be are two different things.

    Science, not just research and medical advances, but also technology and its impact on our community, cannot operate outside of the social constraints that govern us. Humans, in my experience, are political animals most often motivated by their own prejudices and priorities.

    We (as a community, country, society what have you) also need to redefine/ clarify what we mean by science...The ability to do something does not always have to translate into a policy--but more often than not, people who feel they "don't understand science" feel compelled (often by fear) to stop it.
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    Feb 6 2012: I believe that there should be a greater divide between science and the existing political environment. However, whether or not that actually happens is a different story. Science in its own right has been for the sake of pushing and probing the boundaries of nature in order to better understand it. To me, it is a pure practice of simply unveiling the things we don't know but just take for granted. With political involvement, I feel that that idealistic goal is lost. Maybe it is just my own cynical view on government, but I feel that once you incorporate officials whose beliefs are tied to votes or money, the path towards future enlightenment becomes lost.
    Yes, I understand that there are factors involving legality and safety, and in that respect, science should be regulated to ensure that the common people aren't adversely affected. However, scientists should not be handcuffed by overzealous politicians who withdraw support for a controversial project, which could possibly solve a millennia old question, just because they feel it would be an end to their career. Maybe if the connection between politics and science did not exist, that very situation would not occur.
    We live in a world now where our governments play a large role in every day life, for better or for worse. But either way, I believe that political policies should try to extend scientific research and continue to push boundaries because that is what will allow our society to thrive in coming years.
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    Feb 6 2012: Separating science and politics is a difficult feat. Only a certain degree of separation, I feel can be achieved because they have such a dependent relationship. Governmental regulation should foster scientific creativity and freedom as well as guarantee safety and efficiency. There are efforts to create sustainable housing. There are communities that continually build new sustainable houses from ideas that were dreamed the night before. They create drawings and the next day start testing and building to determine their success rates and what they can improve on. However, governmental regulations have made it difficult to think and build freely with all sorts of requirements, fees, and permits. I agree that safety should be a major design consideration but sensitive situations such as the current state and decline of our natural habitats, of our environment demand immediate action. Scientists should have the freedom to fail. From unsuccessful research, progress is still made. Political policies should encourage scientific research not hinder it. They should regulate it not limit it.
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    Feb 6 2012: The thing is that in reality the funding that comes to support the most impressive scientific developments have been from governments to private industry in the last 60 years at least. Perhaps prior to that it was in the labs of large companies that invested in R&D looking for the next big thing, and now it has move mostly where it still exists to college campus' which are often funded by the school corporate and federal money.

    I think that the people should invest in large amounts of research on the condition that the companies or universities are limited in the profits that can be made form discoveries that people s money supported.
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    Feb 5 2012: Science inevitably gets sucked into politics because research requires money, and, more often than not, money comes from politics.

    Why is this bad? A politician may "support" a popular research topic just to gain more public support; whether they actually care is another story. With this constantly happening, there should be a separation of science and politics; its unfair that a politician should win an election for "supporting" a cause they don't even support.

    The overarching questions here seems to reside in ethics. If both groups engaged in ethical behavior, there would be no need for separation. However, as things are now, the overlapping of science and politics leads to unfair advantages, as one group exploits the other in their own favor. As unfair as it might be, this is a necessary evil, for in the end it advances the research. To not jump on the bandwagon would be disadvantageous, as the honest groups always seem to lag behind, while those who know how to "pull the right strings" end up in front.
    • Feb 7 2012: I agree that science will always be influenced by the political environment of its time due to research being dependent upon outside funding.

      The problem here is finding a balance between political pressure and scientific advancement while keeping in mind the ugly aspects of human nature. New developments in science should be achieved without endangering the life and well being of others, which leads to a control being needed. Political influence creates an atmosphere where research is not necessarily supported for the insight it will give to human kind but rather to further political agendas. No immediate solution comes to mind.
  • Feb 4 2012: When science comes first, and politics follows to guide and inform, society can be greatly benefitted. As with nuclear power.

    When politics comes first, and science is commanded to support it, society can be greatly harmed. As with global warming.
  • Feb 4 2012: Everything affects everything. All systems interact. We have choice. Politicians choose which science they value more than others for public funding. Students choose which science (or nonscience) field to pursue. It's a free country. It's a free world. Everybody makes choices. Sometimes, for analytical purposes, it is useful to separate one thing from another, e.g., science and politics, but that is irrelevant to the reality of their interaction outside of that specific purpose.
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    Feb 3 2012: Hi
    I don`t want to be rude but ...........
    I agree with you about what you said but what`s the definition of science ?
    knowing any data about everything is called science but the thing which lets a science to exist is investing.
    And an investor do investing mostly just for increasing his fund or power.
    So do you really think making a separation in real world is possible ?
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      Feb 7 2012: I was using the wikipedia definition of a scientist ("somebody seeking knowledge") since that's probably a sum of a bunch of peoples' beliefs, but I think anybody can declare themselves to be a scientist and define science in their own way. I disagree with you about science being defined by investing or funding, so I suppose a question about science could have a different meaning for each person who reads and responds.
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        Feb 7 2012: I didn`t say science is defined by funding,
        I said a science can do exist with that.
        like air for us.
        but the reason which mixes science with politics is mostly money and power.
        and you defined the scientist- please define the "science".
  • Feb 3 2012: In terms of national standardized curriculums in public secondary and elementary schools (keep in mind I'm canadian, not american) I believe governments should make science a priority subject among many. (As an aside, what happened to rhetoric, for pete's sake?) I don't feel that governments should, for example, offer increased financial incentives for a particular subject of scientific research over another, at any level of education.
  • Feb 2 2012: Tip O'Neal said that all politics is personal. To firewall one from the other would be to remove humans entirely from the process of science.
  • Feb 2 2012: there is a major problem of how the funding reaches the scientists. university scientists have funding cut from direct education routes, but are sideline funded by the military. giving the military first choice of use of discovery. So instead of government- university direct funding, we have government-military-university indirect funding. so there is a political intervention and a dark one, within science. This was discovered and researched in the uk by rob evans in the 1980s.
    i am sure there is a book and relevant journalistic coverage of this work.
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    Feb 2 2012: Major developments in science can only be funded by Countries [deep pockets] so hence Politics and lobbying becomes a key stakeholder in the Research and Development of the future

    Businesses investing in Research and Development of science puts a very high price tag on the future of any product
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    Feb 2 2012: I think there should be a separation between scientists and politics (as a former polsci student :) ). But there shouldn't be a separation between scientists and reality, including social reality. Right now scientists de facto serve as high priests in our society, in the same way that high priests were responsible in former times to say if the chief / king had the sanctification of god in his doings. When politicians nowadays want to do something (important) they usually come up with a study of this or that. Which is almost without alternative - while on the other hand, scientists that write biased support articles for a cause because their sponsors appreciate it (not even ask - but could do well with) is not without alternative.
    It is for politicians to allocate fundings out of political (namely societal not power politics) reasons for science. And for scientists to use those fundings out of scientifical curiosity and interest. Of course there will always be transgressions, but I thing society should be vigilant not indulgent about it.
    If on the other hand, a scientist should speak his voice on societies behalf - which is what I think about Max Plank - it should not be for this or that politician or party - but for the reality itself as it presents to him (which is after all what scientists ar good about finding out).
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    Feb 2 2012: Pure science, is the best investment a country can make... And, the worst investment a business can make. GO NASA!
  • Feb 1 2012: A lot of what I have read down here, operates under the assumption that politics ALWAYS has influence on science. What if you change this assumption and put science in the line of 'trias politica': wich is the idea about 'division of the powers': law makers, justice and law enforcers can't influence each other (in theorie).
    Example: A judge can't be fired for not agreeing with the government: division of the powers.
    translation into our little new situation: universities will receive a certain amount of finance (e.g. based on the amount of publications in scientifc magazines, the amount of students they have, or just plain and simple: equally divided between all universities) wich is a percentage of the national budget. Perhaps you should add this in the constitution so not every random politician can just change this. How about that? Wouldn't this solve the problem?
    Excuse me for my English: you should read this in Dutch ;).
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    Feb 1 2012: Hi Samantha:

    Politics is necessarily related to peoples interests and opinions and as such, it makes a lot of sense that there should be a large influence.
    On the other hand political agendas tend to be short term.
    I don’t see a mayor issue with politics influencing the research agendas.
    The main issue would be if they where to influence the results or who can research in any manner.