disinterested science

Brett Knowlton brettk at unica-usa.com
Tue Jul 28 07:00:33 PDT 1998


This is definitely a problem. I got a Ph.D. in Materials Science at MIT 2 years ago, and it was clear that most of the money coming in was either defense related or coming from companies. The idea of the university as a safe haven away from the pressures of industry is simply false. It probably always was, but funding is coming from sources with strings attached with greater frequency now. MIT was basically a development center for business.

I don't think there is anything wrong with universities getting into development - some very good work gets done and it can be an excellent teaching vehicle - but not when the public has to subsidize the work and private companies reap the profits, or when businesses selectively fund projects which promote a viewpoint that is sympathetic to the company (like the cigarrette companies funding studies showing no link between smoking and cancer, etc.).

On a related topic, I would also like to see more of a balance between "hard" subjects like math, science and economics and "soft" subjects like English and philosophy and humanities in general. All of the prestige in universities these days are in the "hard" departments - all the research dollars flow into these depts., creating higher salaries, better facilities, and the humanities get starved. This focus on "practical" subjects (ones that make it easy to get a job after graduation) is going to impoverish our society intellectually and make people even more docile in the face of economic exploitation.


At 06:13 PM 7/27/98 -0700, you wrote:
>I am surprised that nobody has mentioned the fact that more and more,
>science has been corporatized, with scientists hewing the corporate line
>and sworn to secrecy. I had a section discussing this trend in my new
>book, Class Warfare in the Information Age (St. Martin's 1998).
>I am now looking through Krimsky, Sheldon. 1996. "Financial Interests of
>Authors in Scientific Journals: A Pilot Study of 14 Publications." Science
>and Engineering Ethics, 2, pp. 395-410.
>Scarey stuff. In any case, the idea of disinterested scientists searching
>for truth is becoming less and less reflective of reality.
>Michael Perelman
>Economics Department
>California State University
>Chico, CA 95929
>Tel. 530-898-5321
>E-Mail michael at ecst.csuchico.edu

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