October 29, 2012

Scientists on trial

Last week my newsfeed blew up with reactions to the conviction of seven scientists for manslaughter. As I wrote about last summer, these scientists failed to predict an earthquake in Italy. Many people, especially my scientist friends, see this as an attack on science and scientists who, it seems from this perspective, should be let alone to do their work without political interference or, worse yet, fear of conviction. But as you might expect, I argue that we need to look at the social side of science. Scientists don't operate in a political vacuum  and as we see here, there are very real consequences from the muddled interaction between scientists and policy-makers. To re-paraphrase Sheila Jasanoff, "Scientists have become arrogant, and have not explained to the people why they deserve support... The Enlightenment was not a historical event. It is a process, a mission, a continuous duty to explain yourself.”

For another interesting perspective, check out Dan Sarewitz writing for CSPO's new blog, "As We Now Think."

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