Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The cause of public hostility to science research

George Monbiot, in looking for scapegoats for ClimateGate, writes of science journals:

Distrust has been multiplied by the publishers of scientific journals, whose monopolistic practices make the supermarkets look like angels, and which are long overdue for a referral to the Competition Commission. They pay nothing for most of the material they publish, yet, unless you are attached to an academic institute, they'll charge you £20 or more for access to a single article. In some cases they charge libraries tens of thousands for an annual subscription. If scientists want people at least to try to understand their work, they should raise a full-scale revolt against the journals that publish them. It is no longer acceptable for the guardians of knowledge to behave like 19th-century gamekeepers, chasing the proles out of the grand estates.

One recalls that the "guardians of knowledge" brought us Jan-Hendrik Schon and Hwang Woo Suk. As to GlacierGate, the questionable facts were not even presented in reputable journals. Within the Jones emails, the issue was manipulation of the journals and the refereeing process, an issue distinct from "how much" the journals cost. The "global warming" folks argued their science was right, BECAUSE it was in refereed journals, not because the "proles" were actually reading, or understanding, what was in the journals. The skepticism of the public to aspects of the research in ClimateGate does not arise from the cost of journals. The skepticism does arise from a belief there has been gamesmanship and tribalism.

As a distinct point in debate on the "patent vs. publication" format for releasing scientific information, note that the general public can read patents for free on the internet. They cannot read Science or Nature for free. While some argue "they can't understand patents," it should be pointed out that they can't even readily access science journal publications.


and on celebrity science including

David Hume's famous statement that "A wise man proportions his belief to the evidence" does not mean that everybody should shut up and just believe whatever scientific orthodoxy, or the government, or some church, says. You're allowed to seek your own evidence, and to judge what evidence presented by others is plausible. You don't need a diploma to be a scientist. A scientist is just someone who does science.


Regarding your mother's incorrect assumption that your ideas probably weren't new - indeed, the man who says it can't be done should not interrupt the man who is busy doing it. But this does not mean that the man who says it can't be done is the one who has to put up or shut up!


(You can set up a pretty respectable molecular biology lab for under $US1000, these days. Praise eBay!)

On Nature: Climategate: Once Respected Nature Now Staffed By Moaning Ninnies


Post a Comment

<< Home