policy politics research

Research and democracy

This is the content of my letter published by the New Scientist.

It refers to Dan Hind’s proposal, on a previous issue, to make research topics subject to public scrutiny in order to create a “democracy of research” free from the action of lobbies. I suspect this is dangerous at worst and naive at best, as this would make the lobbies’ work much easier.

Hind was not available to comment.

From Giuseppe Sollazzo, London, UK

As much as it is true that public scrutiny is the base of every democratic system, I’m not sure that this concept can be easily applied to research anywhere but in an ideal world. Exclusion of people from the voting system based on their level of education would be considered anti-democratic, but what happens when the electorate is ignorant?

In the US, the incoming Republican House majority leader, Eric Cantor, has instigated a public vote that has already favoured cuts in science funding over other areas and is now being used to determine where these cuts should be made (11 December 2010, p 7).

Would Hind let people who voted for Cantor, Sarah Palin and the like decide how to allocate research funds? If not, the democracy is flawed. If he does, good luck to the rest of us.


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