LOKA post

Joseph Carson (73530.2350@CompuServe.COM)
25 Jul 97 08:21:44 EDT

I'm reposting this as I think it discusses matter relevant to ASA - the how
of science, including ethics and accountability.

Joe Carson


Friends and Colleagues:

This is a trial "Loka Alert." Loka Alerts are short essays
or action alerts concerned with democratizing science and
technology. They are distributed free of charge by the Loka
Institute, on average no more than once a month. If you don't
want to receive another one, just send an e-mail note to
<Loka@amherst.edu> with the message text: "unsub Loka-L trial".

The political premise behind most Loka Alerts is that: (1)
science and technology have become crucial forces in shaping the
modern world; and (2) it is both desirable and feasible to
broaden the range of people who are able to influence decisions
about science and technology.

Dick Sclove, Executive Director, The Loka Institute
P.O. Box 355, Amherst, MA 01004, USA
E-mail: resclove@amherst.edu
World Wide Web http://www.amherst.edu/~loka
Tel. +(413) 582-5860; Fax +(413) 582-5811


Loka Alert 4:4 (July 24, 1997)

Please Repost Widely
Where Appropriate



(A) The Rapture of Science/The Capture of
Science....................................... (1/2 page)
(B) Does Public Science Drive Private Innovation?..... (1/2 page)
(C) Does Private Innovation Serve The Public Good?.... (1/2 page)
(D) Democratizing Science & Innovation................ (2 pages)
(E) Afterword: Media Coverage of Science............ (1/2 page)
(F) About the Loka Institute (including Internship
Opportunities!)............................... (1 page)
(G) Notes to "Science, Inc. versus Science-for-
Everyone...................................... (1/2 page)


by Dick Sclove, The Loka Institute

According to a recent New York Times editorial, "Novel ideas
conceived by American patent holders depend far more on research
paid for by government than on research paid for by private
industry....The implication is that proposed cutbacks in Federal
research would damage the economy." The editorial is based on a
new study prepared for the National Science Foundation by CHI
Research, Inc.


Scientific leaders are predictably ecstatic at the latest
evidence that what they do is vital to American industrial
performance. "It's a watershed," Dr. Martin Apple, director of
the Council of Scientific Society Presidents, told Times'
reporter William Broad. "It's a wake-up call for federal
investment policies."

Charles Larson, executive director of the Industrial
Research Institute concurs that the CHI Research study is "going
to make people realize...that public investment in academic
science through government-funded programs pays dividends to
society....It pays off handsomely."[1]

But the rest of us should think twice before agreeing to
pour more tax dollars into a science system that's become coupled
much more tightly to business than to civil society, democracy,
or the broader public good.

The new CHI Research report suggests an historic deepening
in the relationship between science and industry. Of course,
this isn't entirely surprising, given a two-decades-long trend in
which university researchers have increasingly traded time at the
lab bench for power lunches with venture capitalists and patent
attorneys. But from a societal standpoint, what does this trend
really mean?


Those already touting the new study to justify increased
federal funding for science are making several arguable
assumptions. The first is that patenting provides indisputable
evidence of industrial innovation. In reality many corporations
use patents to suppress inventions that compete with their
existing product lines or to protect slight improvements, not to
support real technological breakthroughs [2]. Indeed, while
qualifications such as these are omitted in the new CHI Research
study, even CHI's own glossy corporate brochure explains that:

"All patents are not alike. Most are, in large part,
enhancements built upon previous patents....A rare few
actually break entirely new ground and form the
foundation for inventions that follow."

Moreover, while the Times' editorial cites the new CHI study
as proof that government-funded science far outstrips industry-
funded science in spurring industrial innovation, here the Times
was led astray by ambiguous wording in the CHI study. By
examining the research footnoted in recent American patents, CHI
found that "many of the cited research papers are supported by
governmental and other research support agencies," such as the
National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health,
and the Departments of Defense and Energy.

But when I checked with Dr. Francis Narin, principal author
of the new CHI study, he concurred that a key ambiguity here is
that modern scientific research often has multiple sources of
support, both public and private. Thus CHI's finding that much
of the research cited in patents is "government funded" doesn't
tell us whether it was funded by government entirely, partially,
or only marginally. For example, one can imagine a university
research project in microbiology that is funded 60 percent by
pharmaceutical companies, 40 percent by the National Science
Foundation, and that receives further industrial subsidy in
virtue of being conducted in an industry-funded university lab
building. Until this ambiguity concerning multiple funding
sources is resolved, one can't really draw any definitive
conclusions about the relative commercial influence of government
versus private science.


But assume for the sake of argument that government funded
science does markedly accelerate commercial innovation. Is the
obvious conclusion that we should increase public funding of
science _as it is presently organized_?

Only if you believe that commercial innovation is tightly
correlated with the overall public good. Of course, we all know
that commercial innovation delivers many useful products--non-
stick skillets, E-mail, contact lenses, pacemakers, and
antidepressant drugs, to name a few. But it also contributes to
plenty of social results we don't want (cardboard-flavored
tomatoes, toxic wastes, global climate change, unneeded military
weapons systems, job insecurity, and everyday stress and speed-
up), while failing to deliver other results we do want (a just
and environmentally sustainable economy, vibrant communities,
healthy families, adequate leisure time, humane medical care,
deep insight into social problems, etc.).

How could we get more of the knowledge, innovation, and
social results we want, and less of what we don't want? Rather
than showering more money on science as it is presently
organized, we might start allowing Americans from all walks of
life a say in decisions that profoundly affect them.

After all, today key decisions about science and innovation
are determined by just three social groups: business, the
military, and elite academic scientists. All the rest of us can,
of course, vote our preferences in the market, and that is
precisely why a decent portion of commercial innovation winds up
scratching where we itch.

But as a mediator between social need and the production of
new knowledge and commercial products, the market is highly
imperfect. As consumers in the marketplace we can't vote for
products that are never made available; we can't vote on
military, infrastructural, workplace, or business-to-business
technology decisions; we can't vote on social science research
priorities; we can't vote influentially if we're poor; and we
can't affect the unintended social results that our individual
purchases combine to produce.[3] Thus to recouple science to the
public good, we need to reorganize our research-and-innovation
system so that it becomes more responsive to democratically
decided social and environmental concerns.


Sound absurd that citizens who can't even program their VCRs
could ever contribute constructively to complex scientific and
industrial issues? There are proven institutional innovations
through which everyday citizens can do just that.

Just last spring a demographically balanced and diverse
group of non-expert citizens assembled near Boston to cross-
examine experts in information technology, deliberate among
themselves, and then announce their own cogent policy
recommendations at a national press conference on
"Telecommunications and the Future of Democracy." The National
Science Foundation, which sponsored the CHI Research study, also
supported this first, pilot U.S. emulation of a time-tested
European participatory institution. (In Denmark, for example,
such citizens' panels have influenced the Parliament to place
strict controls on the use of genetic information in insurance
and employment decisions, while influencing industry to redirect
its animal biotechnology research away from socially
controversial areas.)[4]

There's plenty of evidence to suggest that a democratized
science agenda would lead to different (I would argue more
sensible) research priorities. For instance, while Congress and
the Administration last year awarded $12.7 billion to the
National Institutes of Health (NIH), less than one-thousandth
of that amount trickled down to NIH's diminutive Office of
Alternative Medicine. Yet a 1993 study published in the New
England Journal of Medicine found that Americans--evidently fed
up with uncaring mainstream medical bureaucracies--now make more
visits to practitioners of alternative medicine (such as
acupuncturists, chiropractors, homeopathists, and teachers of
relaxation techniques) than to primary care physicians.
"Expenditures associated with use of unconventional therapy in
1990 amounted to approximately $13.7 billion, three quarters of
which ($10.3 billion) was paid out of pocket [i.e., not
reimbursed by insurers]." Nor should one imagine that the
clients of alternative medicine are ignorant dupes; in fact they
are disproportionately affluent and well-educated.[5]

On the basis of this and related evidence, it's not hard to
guess that if the American public had any say in the matter
(which currently they don't), we'd see less research directed
toward chemical- and machine-intensive medical interventions,
job-displacing factory and office systems, military weaponry,
user-discomfiting computer upgrades, and hypertension-inducing/
civil-society-eroding information overload. Conversely, I'm
willing to bet there'd be more research on alternative and
preventive medicine, women's health concerns, organic and
community-supported agriculture, public transit, job-preserving/
quality-of-work-enhancing workplace innovations, and local
economic self-reliance. We might also see more inquiry concerned
with redressing the gross imbalance between civic efforts to
enhance community life versus the relentless corporate drive to
expand personal consumption.

As Carolyn Raffensperger, executive director of the
nonprofit Science & Environmental Health Network, puts it:

"Increasingly corporations decide the budget for
research and development. The United States promotes a
corporate science agenda rather than a 'people's
science agenda.' By setting the agenda, they steer
available money away from public health, sustainable
agriculture and environmental protection and into
product development."

Another way to couple research to societal need would be to
support the effort of the Loka Institute and its nonprofit
partners to establish a transnational Community Research Network
through which universities and other nonprofit organizations
would conduct more research collaboratively with grassroots,
public-interest, and worker organizations. This would provide a
healthy counterbalance to universities' deepening ties to
industry, while offering participating students salutary
education for citizenship and civic responsibility.[6]

As Daniel Sarewitz writes in the latest Issues in Science &

"Numerous European nations are experimenting with
ways to more fully involve the public in the science
and technology policy process....Nascent efforts along
these lines in the United States, such as those
recently launched by the nonprofit Loka Institute,
deserve the strong support and cooperation of U.S.

Annual U.S. expenditure on research and development is
currently $180 billion. (Two-thirds of this is paid for by the
private sector, the remaining one-third by the federal
government). Given the magnitude of that expenditure, a
straightforward way to pay for vitally needed initiatives to
involve citizens, workers and communities in science and
technology decisions would be to place a one percent levy on all
R&D expenditure. (There is precedent in the budget of the
federally funded Human Genome Project, five percent of which is
earmarked for studies of the social implications of genome

So what will it be? A new Science-For-Everyone or the
emerging, more narrowly focused Science, Inc.? If the latter,
the clearest implication of new evidence that government funded
science is vital to commecial innovation would be to tax--and
thus return to the public coffers--a heftier fraction of the
private profits resulting from this munificent public subsidy.
But far better than acceding to an industrially dominated
Science, Inc. would be to recreate science as a democratic force
serving the broader public good. Only then should we start
heeding scientific leaders' clamor for increased government


The New York Times' flawed coverage of the CHI Research
study highlights another necessary step for democratizing
research and innovation: systematic introduction of diverse
critical perspectives into science and technology reporting.

The Times and other "serious" news outlets don't cover new
movie releases, restaurant openings, or even proposed corporate
mergers by simply accepting at face value whatever is written in
the unsolicited press releases they receive. E.g., media
executives hire reporters to investigate and critics to
interpret. Why isn't there a corresponding tradition of serious
science and technology criticism?

In the case at hand, the Times' editors failed to catch a
key ambiguity in the CHI research study and thereby leapt to
unwarranted policy recommendations. Times' reporter Bill Broad's
original story about the CHI study is carefully written and even
took the added step of soliciting "expert reaction" to the CHI
findings. Yet the experts chosen were a business professor, an
industrial economist, and an industrial spokesman--not a group
calculated to ask deeply probing questions about the validity and
social significance of the CHI study.

A moral of this fable is that it is incumbent upon those of
us concerned with the social significance of science and
technology to press news media to introduce diverse critical
viewpoints. One healthy start would be for news outlets such as
the New York Times to augment their routine science coverage with
a science-and-technology op-ed section open to critical social

[Notes to this essay appear below,
at the bottom of this Loka Alert.]



The Loka Institute is a tax-exempt nonprofit organization
dedicated to making science and technology responsive to
democratically decide social and environmental concerns. TO FIND
OUT MORE ABOUT THE LOKA INSTITUTE, to participate in our on-line
discussion groups or to help, please visit our Web page
<http://www.amherst.edu/~loka> or contact us via E-mail at

To learn more about the Loka Institute's concerns and
vision, see Loka founder Richard Sclove's book, _DEMOCRACY AND
TECHNOLOGY_--recipient of the 1996 Don K. Price Award of the
American Political Science Association as "the best book of the
year on science, technology and politics". For a paperback copy,
contact your local bookseller or Guilford Press (in the U.S.
telephone toll free 800-365-7006; or, from anywhere, fax Guilford
Press in the U.S. at +(212)-966-6708 or E-mail:

"Mr. Sclove is refreshing in the way he rejects
ideas so nearly universally held that most people
have never thought to question them." -- _New York
Times Book Review_

LOKA INSTITUTE INTERNSHIPS: The Loka Institute has openings
for both paid and volunteer interns and paid work-study students
for the remainder of 1997 (and beyond). We are a small nonprofit
organization, and the activities in which interns are involved
vary from research assistance and writing to assisting in
organizing conferences, project development and management,
fundraising, managing our Internet lists, Web page updates,
helping with clerical and other office work, etc. If you are
interested in working with us to promote a democratic politics of
science and technology, please send a hard copy resume along with
a succinct letter explaining your interest to: The Loka
Institute, P.O. Box 355, Amherst, MA 01004, USA.


COMMUNITY RESEARCH NETWORK: We have recently published a
report on our July 1996 national planning conference for the
Community Research Network (CRN), and have in press a new
introductory collection of readings about community-based
research. We are also at work creating a World Wide Web-
accessible directory of community research programs worldwide, as
well as a set of comparative case studies of community research
centers in the United States. (For information on these
resources, email us at Loka@amherst.edu). Finally, we have
initiated a strategic planning exercise to chart the next steps
in establishing the Community Research Network. Included will be
new institutional partnerships for expanding public accessibilty
to the CRN and creating several new community research centers,
as well as a follow-on to last summer's inaugural CRN planning

PILOT CITIZENS' PANELS: Following our successful April 1997
Pilot Citizens' Panel on "Telecommunications & the Future of
Democracy," Loka Director Dick Sclove was invited to Washington,
DC, to brief government officials, including representatives of
the White House Office of Science & Technology Policy, the
Council on Environmental Quality, and the Commerce Department.
We are currently assembling institutional partners to plan and
organize several follow on citizens' panels at the national

DENMARK BOUND: From August 1 through mid-October 1997, Loka
director Dick Sclove will be in Copenhagen working with the
Danish Parliament's Board of Technology on several projects. One
will involve exploring ways of incorporating democratic design
criteria into participatory technology assessment activities.
During this time, Sclove will also be affiliated with the
community research center at the Danish Technical University.

Traffic on the LOKA INSTITUTE E-MAIL LIST (Loka-L)--which
distributes Loka Alerts as a one-way news-and-opinion
distribution service--is intentionally kept low (on average not
more than one message per month), to protect overbusy people from
unwanted clutter. To be added to, or removed from, the list,
please send an e-mail message to that effect to


(G) NOTES to "Science, Inc. Versus Science-for-Everyone"

[1]. The CHI Research study is: Francis Narin, Kimberly S.
Hamilton, and Dominic Olivastro, "The Increasing Linkage Between
U.S. Technology and Public Science," 17 March 1997. The study is
forthcoming in _Research Policy_, and available in the interim
from Chi Research Inc., 10 White Horse Pike, Haddon Heights, NJ
08035, USA; Tel. +609-546-0600; Fax +609-546-9633; E-Mail
<73302.1036@compuserve.com>. The Times editorial appeared as
"The Leverage of Federal Research, _New York Times_, 15 May 1997,
p. A36. The quotes from Apple and Larson appear in William J.
Broad, "Study Finds Public Science Is Pillar of Industry," _New
York Times_, 13 May 1997, pp. C1 and C10.

[2]. Richard Dunford, "Is the Development of Technology
Helped or Hindered by Patent Law--Can Antitrust Laws Provide the
Solution?," _University of New South Wales Law Journal_, Vol. 9
(1986), pp. 117-135; Thomas Parke Hughes, _American Genesis: A
Century of Invention and Technological Enthusiasm, 1870-1970_
(New York: Viking, 1989), pp. 54, 139-180). A further
problematic feature of the new CHI study is that it's aggregate
statistics on the commercial influence of "basic" science are
skewed by the biological and biomedical sciences, in which--over
the past two decades--any meaningful distinction between basic
versus applied research has effectively vanished.

[3]. On the "unintended social results that our individual
purchases combine to produce," see Richard E. Sclove, _Democracy
and Technology_ (New York: Guilford Press, 1995), pp. 164-168.

[4]. For more information on the Boston Citizens' Panel,
which was spearheaded by the Loka Institute and organized with
the help of half a dozen other institutional partners, go to
<http://www.amherst.edu/~loka/panel/panel.htm> on the World Wide
Web or send an E-mail request to <Loka@amherst.edu>.

[5]. David M. Eisenberg et al., "Unconventional Medicine in
the United States," _New England Journal of Medicine_, Vol. 328
(Jan. 28, 1993), pp. 246-252.

[6]. On the Community Research Network, go to
<http://www.amherst.edu/~loka/ncrn/ncrn.htm> on the World Wide
Web. An up-to-date article on the Community Research Network is:
Richard Sclove, "Research by the People," in _A World that Works:
Building Blocks for a Just and Sustainable Society_, ed. Trent
Schroyer (New York: Bootstrap Press, 1997), pp. 278-290; a
lightly modified version of this article is also forthcoming in
_Futures_, August 1997.

[7]. Daniel Sarewitz, "Social Change and Science Policy,"
_Issues in Science and Technology_, Vol. 13, No. 4 (Summer 1997),
p. 32.