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Science, Money, and Politics: Political Triumph and Ethical Erosion 1st Edition

4.5 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0226306353
ISBN-10: 0226306356
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Science, in the abstract, is supposed to be nonpolitical, even to transcend politics entirely. In truth, though, science is always conditioned by political reality--and by money.

So writes journalist Daniel Greenberg in this wide-ranging indictment of the way in which science is conducted in the United States. Although funding for scientific research has been readily available since the end of World War II, he maintains, research bureaucrats have transformed the enterprise into "a clever, well-financed claimant for money" and the successful quest for that funding into a condition of employment and advancement. Given that climate, Greenberg suggests, basic research has suffered, so that many diseases go unconquered, while more politically glamorous investigations are rewarded. Increasingly corporatized--industry, he writes, accounts for two-thirds of all research and development dollars spent, and its "profit-seeking values" are radiating throughout the culture--scientific research is insufficiently policed and criticized, watched over only by the inmates. In the rush for funding, Greenberg argues, science becomes increasingly subject to ethical lapses, with scientists too easily endorsing dubious causes such as the so-called Star Wars missile-defense system and too readily putting human subjects in danger.

Greenberg's arguments are broad but well supported, and his book is sure to excite controversy within the scientific community. Lay readers, however, will also find it of much interest. --Gregory McNamee --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Publishers Weekly

Washington-based journalist Daniel S. Greenberg (The Politics of Pure Science) delves further into his favorite issue in Science, Money, and Politics: Political Triumph and Ethical Erosion. Debunking science industry and policy myths left and right, Greenberg combines archival research and interviews with scientists and politicians in the know to explore why and how research has happened in the postwar U.S. "[B]ecause the politics of science is registered in money awarded or denied... [m]oney will serve as a diagnostic tool for our study," says Greenberg. He goes on to describe the sycophancy, backbends and, sometimes, dishonesty practiced by researchers, and the willingness of some government scientists to keep their mouths shut when it behooves their bosses. A disturbing, compelling and well-researched conspiracy story of the "I knew it!" variety.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 528 pages
  • Publisher: University Of Chicago Press; 1 edition (April 15, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226306356
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226306353
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #297,073 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Robert David STEELE Vivas HALL OF FAME on October 19, 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is the best of the four books I chose to look into this topic, easily the most comprehensive and balanced, with a strong ethical component; it shows how the competition for money, rather than scientific progress, is diverting scarce resources and frustrating needed advances.

It does not, however, provide a complete picture. Three other books are helpful:

The Republican War on Science by Chris Mooney is the book that is the most compelling on the perversions of the extremist Republicans (I am a moderate Republican). Read this first or last, depending on your disposition.

Frontiers of Illusion: Science, Technology, and the Politics of Progress by Daniel Sarewitz, is an excellent counterpart to Greenberg as well as the other two books If science is corrupt on the one hand, it is also over-sold on the other, a point that Sarewitz addresses very methodically.

Finally, Investing in Innovation: Creating a Research and Innovation Policy That Works, edited by Lewis Bramscomb and James Keller, brings together a range of views crossing the environment within which scientific research takes place, evaluationg specific programs and policy tools, and making recommendations (all of which have been ignored by the current Bush Administration).

I take three bottom lines from these four books together:

1) We are spending too much on military science & research.
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By A Customer on September 7, 2001
Format: Hardcover
I'm one of those who believes that we have far more to gain from good science than we have to lose. Nonetheless, Greenberg's book brought me up short. This is a dramatic, readable, well-documented, and shocking exposé of the dirty back-door means by which much support for science research is secured in this country. Greenberg cites example after example of how undeserving or questionable projects are funded while, presumably, more promising work goes begging because it lacks powerful patrons. Greenberg also argues that the whole system is corrupt because universities depend on grant overhead for operating budgets, while congressmen and -women want money for their districts, and various scientific disciplines want to increase their clout and standing. Greenberg clearly is very angry, and his anger stems from genuine outrage that an enterprise such as science, which is so important, and so powerful, has participated in making itself an often-sleazy political tool. I hope university administrators and all the federal officials responsible for science funding will read this book--the fault lies less with scientists individually than with the ways in which universities, the federal government, and scientific organizations see their self-interest.
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Format: Hardcover
There are a couple of things about this work by Greenberg that struck me as significant, and added to the fact that the book is very well written, it makes for a very compelling read. Even after many years of scientific journalism and working within the industry Greenberg says that the scientific enterprise makes him "feel like a stranger in a strange land." This is no idle boast by someone trying to tout his credentials as an objective observer and skeptic. This is in fact precisely the perspective that Greenberg uses throughout; this arms-length approach allows him to come up with some rather perceptive insights and useful recommendations. The second point of interest, and something for which the scientific community should be commended, is that generally this book has been quite favorably received. Many times when an "outsider" reports on some subject, the first, and oftentimes the only point, aggrieved professionals focus on is that he's not an "expert", or he's a "non-specialist". That doesn't seem to be the case with most of the commentary on this book from the scientific community. And make no mistake, there's enough damning evidence here about the volatile mix of SCIENCE, MONEY, AND POLITICS and the resulting mess of "Political Triumph and Ethical Erosion", that it would be normal to expect self-defensive counter criticisms.
Greenberg traces the changing role of science and its relationship with politics, roughly since the period following WWII. Long gone is the era of the prominent presidential science advisors. Today it is money that dominates the scientific agenda. The chapter on the National Science Foundation (NSF) and its claim a few years ago that the country faced a shortage of tens of thousands of scientists is illustrative.
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Format: Paperback
Washington investigative journalist Daniel Greenberg fills the 500 pages of this book with stories of how science puts material concerns ahead of ethical concerns, resulting in that which is not always in the best interests of society. Indeed, ethical erosion in science, with a corresponding abdication of social responsibility, seems to be inversely related to the chase for money. For many scientists, the pursuit of money has become the primary motivation, with concern for the moral and social good largely ignored.

Science can be funded from governments, from industry, and from universities. Of course those who supply the cash flow can determine the type of research and in many respects the outcome of the research. One just has to think of the enormous budget given over to AIDS research, while other less glamorous (and less politically correct) diseases go begging for funding.

The life sciences (medicine, biotechnology, pharmacology, etc.) is a good case in point. For example, pharmaceutical firms often misrepresent and inflate scientific data for regulatory approval, and to influence physicians to prescribe their products to an unwitting public. One way to achieve this end is to duplicate publication of experimental data to give the impression of widespread scientific backing.

Greenberg offers other examples of bad ethics in human experimentation, and notes how the biomedical research community was aware of gross inadequacies in monitoring scientific experimentation and quite content to let the situation remain that way. The examples demonstrate that what is done in the name of science often seems to be above regulation, accountability and ethical review.
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