An American biologist who recently won the Nobel prize in physiology or medicine has made the decision that the laboratory within which he works will no longer send research papers to some of the top journals within his field. Randy Schekman has stated in accordance with this that the pressure to publish work in "luxury" journals leads to researchers cutting corners and pursuing either fashionable areas of scientific research, or those that are particularly financially incentivised. Is Schekman right in what he says, is science elitist, out of touch and motivated by impure values, or do his comments completely miss the mark?
Firstly, it would be rather difficult to deny the influence of economics on science. Without a shadow of a doubt, work is encouraged in virtually every scientific discipline which is supportive of, or fits in with, the existing economic paradigm. And there are always big businesses willing to fund new research which serves their purposes which may be of a rather negligible quality.
For example, in 1996 Monsanto published a study that claimed their 'Roundup Ready Soybeans' were substantially equivalent to conventional soybeans. However, when this study was reviewed by the Dr. Árpád Pustzai, one of the world's leading microbiologists, he stated that "it was obvious that the study had been designed to avoid finding any problems. Everybody in our consortium knew this". This has been confirmed since then by further research, yet Roundup Ready Soybeans now represent 90 percent of the US market. One can easily see the potential conflict of interest here, and some of the problems caused by the influence of money over the scientific process.
In addition, funding often comes from both government and the private sector in areas of research that is particularly important to their agendas. This has often been an accusation levelled at research related to climate change, for which all manner of grants and funding are apparently available, to the degree that scientists in this and related fields struggle to make a living if they're not studying climate change and coming to the conclusions that serve the existing consensus which is strongly promoted by government.
Without doubt, there still remains a huge amount of potential for science to do good, and massive amounts of excellent research is still published, and this has positive results. There is nothing to say that climate and GM food research is necessarily bad, just that the power of money over the process does rather distort it. In a monetary-driven society, and one in which there is a clear elite, as evidenced by the increasingly uneven distribution of wealth, it's hardly surprising that leading scientists would draw the conclusion that this elitism is reflected in the planet's scientific culture.
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