Tuesday, April 9, 2013

A Governments Moral Obligation to Fund Science....

The Washington Post today has a really great article discussing how research Patricia Brennan, who has recently been in the spotlight about her federally funded project studying duck genitalia, is defending her work against conservative critics who argue that the U.S. should not be funding such "oddball research."

She argues that if the government wants to support science, it must support all kinds of science, even science that does not, at first glance, seem as if it will make a major difference in taxpayer's lives."Basic science is not aimed at solving an immediate practical problem," she argues in a Slate article, "Basic science is an integral part of scientific process, but individual projects may sound meaningless when taken out of context. Basic science often ends up solving problems anyway, but it is not designed for this purpose.....As a scientist, my view is that supporting basic and applied research is essential to keep the United States ahead in the global economy."

What kind of research should taxpayers fund? Should governments step in to make sure research and innovation receiving public funds is socially desirable?  What constitutes social desirability in research- is knowledge about the world we live in socially desirable in itself? If we agree that governments have a duty to support responsible research and innovation, what are the best ways of achieving this goal?

These are some of the questions that the Center is trying to answer in our latest project. Working with collaborators from six different continents, this project funded by the European Commission's Seventh Framework Programme seeks to achieve for major objectives:

1. Link existing international networks of responsible research and innovation with relevant social actors on a global scale to focus innovation on social desireability.
2. Complete a major fact-finding missing comparing science funding strategies and innovation policies in Europe, the U.S., China, Japan, India, Australia, and South Africa.
3. Advocate for a a European normative model for RRI globally, using constitutional values as a driver to inform to inform societal desirability.
4. Develop a strategy for fostering the convergence of regional innovation systems at the global level.

We will keep you updated on our progress as the project moves forward.