Forget Politicizing Science. Let’s Democratize Science! by David Guston

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An interesting read on democratizing science policy and advice from 2005. David Guston is based at Arizona State University where he is the  founding director of the School for the Future of Innovation in Society, Director at the Center for Nanotechnology in Society, Co-Director at the Consortium for Science, Policy and Outcomes and Professor in the Department of Political Science, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

“Democratizing science does not mean settling questions about Nature by plebiscite, any more than democratizing politics means setting the prime rate by referendum. What democratization does mean, in science as elsewhere, is creating institutions and practices that fully incorporate principles of accessibility, transparency, and accountability. It means considering the societal outcomes of research at least as attentively as the scientific and technological outputs. It means insisting that in addition to being rigorous, science be popular, relevant, and participatory.”

I don’t quite agree with him that science should be popular but otherwise, he makes excellent points that are summarized here:

  1. Engage user communities and lay citizens more fully in review of funding applications.
  2. Increase support for community-initiated research at universities and other research institutions.
  3. Restructure programs in the ethical, legal, and societal implications (ELSI) of research. If ELSI programs, such as those funded with the genome or nanotechnology initiatives, are to facilitate democratic politics and improve the societal impacts of knowledge-based innovation, they need to meet two criteria. First, they must extend into research areas that have not already been designated for billion-dollar public investments.[…]Second, ELSI research must be more directly plugged back into the policy process.
  4. Increase the opportunities for analysis, assessment, and advice-giving through the use of deliberative polling, citizens’ panels, and other participatory mechanisms.

To read the entire article: http://issues.org/21-1/p_guston-3/

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