Speaking Up on Policy

Alexander Berezin berezin at MCMAIL.CIS.MCMASTER.CA
Sat Oct 7 11:02:31 EST 1995

On 6 Oct 1995, diane h. peapus wrote:

> Someone wrote in response to someone else in response to someone else in...
> : >>>Those who make statements about public
> : >>>policy are engaging in politics -- not science.
> : >>Your point?
> : >Think about it a while, you'll get it.
> : Duh.  I don't get it.
> 	Wake up people!
> 	There is a whole sector of the population out there who
> have degrees from reputable universities in "science and technology
> administration" or "health and welfare policies" and don't know
> the first thing about science, technology or medicine.  Some of them
> are very well meaning people and most really believe in what they
> are making policy about, but many know very little about the physical
> world.  

Agree. However, in practice it is often of no help (and even
makes it worse) when science policy is made by ex-science 
bureaucrats with PhDs and published papers. Of course, there
might be some rare exceptions, but for the most part these 
scientists-turn-politicians are even more arrogant because 
they are loaded by the firm belief that "they know it better". 
All the recent evolution of the American/Canadian research 
grant funding system from supporting SCHOLARS to supporting
so called "projects" and "goal missions" is done primarily 
by these PhD bureaucrats. (how much PhD means: useful to
recall "Dr. Goebbels"). 

What we need to spell very forcefully (and I dare to
amend diane h. peapus on this) is that we need an OPEN 
forum for scientists (and students) to speak up and thus 
facilitate forming public opinion about us directly, not 
thru appointed the (by whom ? how ?) publicly unaccountable 
watchdogs [ regardless of their PhD status ] who will 
INVARIABLY pursue only the interests of their narrow
(in numbres and mind) "establishement".     

To begin with - get rid (boycott) the dishonest practice 
of the so called secretive (anonymous) peer review in science 
funding. Refuse to write grant assessments for as long as
the process reamins anonymous - the ethical equivalent of
shoplifting. Unless the WHOLE process will be publicly open,
all other laminations are useless, and the public will more 
and more perceive us as a self-contained commercially-oriented 
interest group (or mafia) preoccupied by internal squabbles 
and irrelevant to (what they see) are the real interests of 
the society. 

Contrary to what some say, it is NOT a matter of "educating 
public" (suggestrd reading: "Myth of Science Illiteracy" by
M. Shamas), but changing the reward system and role models 
WITHIN the science itself. Old Albert doesn't work anymore,
except for T-shirts. The fact that public views about us 
shift in the above described direction (bunch of fighting 
dogs) is OUR fault (scientists), not "them" (Newts, feds, 
or whomever), not even of "science bureaucrats". 

> Still others truely believe that scientists are evil people
> with no respect for humanity who need to be curbed by self-appointed
> watchdogs, like themselves.

True. But for as long as we (scientists) keep fighting
with each other like dogs (throat-cutting "competiton
for excellence" - bread and butter for the bureaucracy of
"granting councils"), people "on the street" have all the 
right reasons to treat us as dogs.   

> 	If scientist _don't_ make statements about public policies,
> then someone else will.

Fine. But people will listen us ONLY if we are to have 
something useful and new to say FOR THEM, not what they 
already hear form the others.

Alex Berezin

> 	diane h peapus

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