Is it time for researchers to adapt or go on the march?

Mendeley Brainstorm: Science and Politics – Unhappy Together?

Is it time for researchers to adapt or go on the march?
Is it time for researchers to adapt or go on the march?

The worlds of science and politics appear to be in conflict. Britain voted for Brexit; it’s estimated 90% of British academics voted Remain. Recent policy announcements by the Trump administration have provoked scientists to plan a “March for Science” on Washington DC. Are science and politics destined to clash? We are looking for the most well thought out answer to this question in up to 150 words: use the comment feature below the blog and please feel free to promote your research! The winner will receive an Amazon gift certificate worth £50 and a bag full of Mendeley items; competition closes March 8, 2017.

Post-Factual Versus Evidence Based

The world of politics introduced new terms into the lexicon in 2016, including “post-factual”, “post-truth” and “fake news”; the world of science continues to rely on evidence, data and peer reviews. In 2016, politics erupted with statements that denounced “experts”; science depends on expertise to achieve its advances.

Funding Pressures

The Trump Administration has instructed the Environmental Protection Agency to freeze all grants. This could be a prelude to more cuts for research in environmental and other sciences. Mick Mulvaney, President Trump’s choice to head the White House’s Office of Management and Budget, apparently asked in September 2016 after considering studies done about the Zika virus, “…do we really need government funded research at all”.

What’s Next?

Can science learn to live with the new political environment, or is it time for researchers to march? Will “post factual” politics be compelled to yield to cold, hard data? Will science shift from countries like the United States and Britain to elsewhere? What are your thoughts on what will happen and what will you do? Tell us!

Need to Store & Publish Your Data?

Mendeley Data is a secure cloud-based repository where you can store your data (including open data governmental datasets and websites), ensuring it is easy to share, access and cite, wherever you are. Click here for more information.

About Mendeley Brainstorms

Our Brainstorms are challenges so we can engage with you, our users, on the hottest topics in the world of research.  We look for the most in-depth and well thought through responses; the best response as judged by the Mendeley team will earn a prize.

References

AHUJA, M. (2017). Scientists planning their own march in Washington. CNN. [online] Available at: http://edition.cnn.com/2017/01/25/politics/scientists-march-dc-trnd/index.html?sr=twCNN012617scientists-march-dc-trnd0530AMStoryPhoto&linkId=33790680 [Accessed 26 Jan. 2017].

BELLUZ, J. (2017). Trump’s budget director pick: “Do we really need government-funded research at all”. [Blog] Vox. Available at: http://www.vox.com/science-and-health/2016/12/21/14012552/trump-budget-director-research-science-mulvaney [Accessed 26 Jan. 2017].

KASPRAK, A. (2016). FACT CHECK: Trump’s Budget Director Pick Asked “Do We Really Need Government-Funded Research at All?”. [online] Snopes. Available at: http://www.snopes.com/trumps-budget-director-pick-asked-really-need-government-funded-research/ [Accessed 26 Jan. 2017].

WAPNER, J. (2017). Trump Freezes Grants, Approves Pipelines and Considers Sharp Budget Cuts At the EPA. Newsweek. [online] Available at: http://europe.newsweek.com/trump-freezes-grants-approves-pipelines-and-considers-sharp-budget-cuts-epa-547738?rm=eu [Accessed 26 Jan. 2017].

6 thoughts on “Mendeley Brainstorm: Science and Politics – Unhappy Together?

  1. Science and economic powers have been clashing for decades. Research needs to be funded, and big companies need evidence that supports their products. Perhaps pharmaceutical companies are the best example of this (http://www.cochrane.org/MR000033/METHOD_industry-sponsorship-and-research-outcome).

    Science and politics are recenty clashing, yes, but that’s essentially because economic powers have completely eaten politics. If one looks at Trump’s government team, it’s easy to see that the people in charge of politics are the people who used to be in charge of big economic powers. This is incredibly dangerous, as they no longer need to use indirect methods (such as funding)… instead, they can directly censor what they don’t like, and promote fake news that benefit their interests. The United States is arguably the most powerful and influential country in the world, and we are facing a time in which global cooperation is especially needed for a number of issues (global warming, nuclear weapons…), so I find this to be extremely worrying.

    Science will have to fight back, or else it will have to adapt to a world in which only what’s profitable is true.

  2. I think marching just adds power to the politics, puts us at risk, and detracts us from our true scientific purpose. Why not direct our efforts towards working on technologies that are likely to supersede the politics, such as digital autonomous organisations (“DAOs”)? The biggest challenge in this has to be getting funding, as by nature, DAOs are likely to supersede the traditional funding authorities themselves. Who would fund it? Well if it is a political DAO, It has to be the crowd who are likely to benefit, i.e. the public. I guess it could only be crowdfunded. My own recently started self-funded, self-proposed MPhil/PhD project with the Open University, on the possibilities of connecting virtual world users with drones/UAVs might seem like nothing to do with a DAO, but one will certainly be considered as the basis of an appropriate management mechanism. For more on DAOs, start here: https://www.ethereum.org/

  3. I do think scientists should learn how to get involved in politics and have their words count.
    Everybody has their own views and opinions, but when it comes to politicians denying any scientifical evidence and cutting funds to research in order to boost their political success and their companies, we should step in and make our voice be heard. Environmental change is not an idea, it’s a fact.
    All our lives are built on finding the truth, or the closest thing to the truth we can find, so we can’t just watch when someone builds their power on lies and uses it to quit our researches, so they can say they were right, after all.
    How do we do it? We make our researches more accessible, we make ourselves more relatable, we tear down the wall between academia and the people. We go out and MAKE OUR VOICE BE HEARD.

  4. Recently, the Mineralogical Society of America (MSA), a society whose members are interested in geoscience, has begun to censor contributions to its list server, MSA-Talk. Although no explanations are offered, censorship seems to target contributions that lie on the border between science and politics. For example, contributions that mention the scientists’ march on Washington, or the fact that climate change information has been removed from US government web sites, are not published. Contributions that seek to discuss the censorship itself also do not show up, hence this message to this list server. It is not proposed that MSA-Talk discuss politics, but that allowance is made for discussion of geoscience research that may have been misrepresented by politicians. Philosophically and practically, it is a matter of where to draw the line between subjective and objective knowledge. According to quantum theory, there is no precise line between the two, so it is anyone’s guess. I would prefer that members draw that line for themselves, rather than have it defined by an anonymous censor who may have a conscious or unconscious agenda and their own particular view concerning the nature of reality. The most objective strategy for MSA-Talk, and the shortest path to the truth, is to allow all opinions to be expressed freely. The MSA is saved from embarrassment and lawsuits by the simple statement, “These thoughts do not necessarily represent the opinion of MSA.” We must respect the maturity and wisdom of our members, and need not fear letting go. If you would like to comment, the MSA counselors are meeting in mid-May and will be discussing this situation. They can be reached according to the listing at: http://www.minsocam.org/msa/Officers.html .

  5. Fight for science? Fine, but let’s look at the details. Who is fighting, is it the unemployed PhD graduate looking for a job in science or the university professor looking for grant money? And a significant amount of that grant money goes to hiring more low-paid, temporary laboratory scientists, otherwise known as graduate students, i.e. “co-workers”. The job market for scientists is already saturated with those who are seeking employment. Most employment for scientists is found in the private sector and not at the governmental level – except for PhD co-workers (project scientists).

    Protesting for science? Does this mean protesting against the erosion of my rights to professional and intellectual fulfillment ? Or the right of others to add more unemployed scientists to the pool of those who are already seeking work at a level which is commensurate to their educational achievements?

  6. There has always been a certain level of clash between politics and science. If one takes the case to the extreme, there are two possibilities: on the one hand “anarchy” where the rule of law cannot be enforced to safeguard the basic ethics for scientific work and “fragmented segments of science” on the other where the potential for commercializing innovations is lost with no interdisciplinary cooperation in place (1*, 2*). The solution is the “golden midway” where politics lays down the framework for scientific research collaboration. The EU is going in this direction where national states has agreed to support international research community: please let me refer to the European Research Council (ERC): https://erc.europa.eu/funding-and-grants
    This approach will prevail in the future; however, there will be always states that try to enforce their own individual considerations on the top of the common platform. In Finland for eaxmple the privatization and deregulation of the university sector has resulted in situation where universities are increasingly forced out from their comfort zones, potentially amplifying the risk of miscommunication between politics and science (3*).

    References
    1* Eric Bruun & Moshe Givoni (2015). “Sustainable mobility: Six research routes to steer transport policy” Nature, Vol. 523 Issue 7558, Available at: http://www.nature.com/news/sustainable-mobility-six-research-routes-to-steer-transport-policy-1.17860
    2* Karl-Erik Michelsen (2014). “Close link between science and politics raises doubt”, News: Lappeenranta University of Technology, 13 August 2014. Available at: http://www.lut.fi/web/en/news/-/asset_publisher/lGh4SAywhcPu/content/close-link-between-science-and-politics-raises-doubt
    3* Välimaa Jussi. et al. (2014). “University Mergers in Finland: Mediating Global Competition”, Wiley Periodicals, Inc., Vol. 2014, Issue 168, Available at: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/he.20112/pdf

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s