A world to win
By the end of the 19th century, science in the service ofproduction was an essential feature of capitalism, especially inthe chemical and electrical industries. But the outrightcommercialisation of scientific knowledge and research, wheresuch activity becomes a commodity, came to prominence in thelast quarter of the 20th century. The integration of state-sponsored and funded research more directly into the needs ofproduction is a major feature of the development of the marketstate in Britain and the United States.
In Britain, the state invests over £7 billion a year in research
and development. Much of this is now tied to “outcomes” whichdemonstrate how they lead to further wealth creation by theprivate sector. Turning knowledge – scientific understanding –into products for the market place is seen as the key to economicsuccess. The open commercialisation of this sector began as anobjective of the Thatcher governments of the 1980s; the Blairgovernments have deepened and regulated this process. This isdone to create the basis for new firms to develop in Britain butalso to attract existing investment by transnational corporations(TNCs). A developed “science base”, with potential newresearch staff available for employers, is seen as an essentialrequirement by the New Labour government. The net result is anintense commercialisation of science in all areas – from researchto the publication of findings.
Under the Tories, more than 80 public sector research
establishments like the Medical Research Council and theSouthampton Oceanography Centre were given commercialfreedom while some were privatised outright. The first decade ofThatcher’s government from 1979-89, saw a decline in thegovernment’s share of funding for research in universities from81% to 72% of the total, with a corresponding increase inincome from charities, industry and overseas sources. This trendhas accelerated. Business and charitable foundations nowprovide universities with over 40% of their funding for research.
In 1993, the Tory government published a White Paper calledRealising our potential: a strategy for science, engineering andtechnology.
It was based on the premise that the primaryfunction of science is to generate technological innovation inindustry. This model has become explicit under the Blairgovernment and other countries have copied it. In a strategydocument published in July 2002, bearing an almost identicalname, published by three government departments, New Labourdeclared: “Startling advances in communications, information,health and basic technologies are now converging to magnify thepace of scientific and technological change and the productivityof scientific research. Now more than ever before, investment inscience accompanied by matching investments in technology andinnovation offers the prospect of sustained social and economicdividends.” The strategy added:
The potential of scientific and technological discoveries will only berealised, though, if they can be effectively translated into innovation– new products, processes, services and systems. A vibrantinnovation system is the key to reaping the gains from research,connecting science and technology with developments in marketdemand and social needs
. The individual entrepreneurs, businesses,and investors are the essential catalysts who convert science andtechnology into new ways of meeting economic and social needs.
They translate ideas into commercial reality… It is only throughinnovation that science and technology can benefit our economyand society. [emphasis added]
The Office of Science and Technology (OST) is based within theDepartment for Trade and Industry (DTI). It is responsible for allpublic sector investment in science. On its website, the OST talksof the need for “knowledge transfer” – the transfer of ideas,research results and skills between universities, other researchorganisations and business ”to enable innovative new productsand services to be developed”. The OST says its aim “is topromote the transfer of knowledge generated and held in HigherEducation Institutions (HEIs) and Public Sector ResearchEstablishments (PSREs) to the wider economy to enhanceeconomic growth”.
A number of schemes exist that are aimed at “supporting
entrepreneurship”, training, commercialisation and developmentof links between the universities, the PSREs and business. Theseinclude the Higher Education Innovation Fund, UniversityChallenge, Science Enterprise Challenge (SEC) and the PublicSector Research Exploitation Fund. The aim of the SEC is toestablish a network of centres in UK universities, “specialising inthe teaching and practice of commercialisation andentrepreneurialism in the field of science and technology”.
Twelve centres were established as a result of 1999-2000 awards.
Another 39 are in the pipeline. The OST says: “Early measuresof activity are encouraging with 5,900 science and technologygraduates exposed to new enterprise teaching in the first twoyears, and over 850 at postgraduate and professional level. Thecentres have also helped to generate 400 new business ideas, over80 of which have led to early stage businesses.” The purpose ofUniversity Challenge is to enable universities to access seed fundsin order to assist the successful transformation of “good researchinto good business
”. [emphasis added] It is reported that in thefirst two years of operations 105 new “spinouts” were created.
Direct collaboration between public research institutions and
business is fostered through the LINK scheme. The scheme“offers an opportunity to engage with some of the best and mostcreative minds in the country, to tackle new scientific andtechnological challenges so that industry can go on to developinnovative and commercially successful products, processes andservices”. LINK encourages innovative research “with good
potential for eventual commercial exploitation, and offersopportunities for researchers from industry and academia toacquire knowledge and develop new technologies together whichwill help shape the 21st century”. Companies of any size andresearch organisations throughout the UK can participate inLINK projects. Global corporations with a manufacturing andresearch organisation in the UK are also eligible. In 2004, it wasreported that a number of major companies, includingGlaxoSmithkline, AstraZeneca, Shell, Vodafone, Amersham andRolls Royce, were in discussions with the government on howtheir commercial investment in research and development can“partner public investment in the UK science base”.
The bulk of government money for research is distributed
through seven research councils. It goes to the universities and tothe research institutes that are nominally state-owned butincreasingly run along commercial lines. Big business has ahighly influential role in the most important one, theBiotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council(BBSRC). Nearly one quarter of the BBSRC’s committees areindustry scientists. GlaxoSmithKline, one of the world’s toppharmaceutical corporations, has no fewer than sixrepresentatives, including one on the governing council itself.
There are also representatives from AstraZeneca, Unilever andUnited Biscuits. There are no consumer or trade unionrepresentatives.
The BBSRC’s purpose is “to sustain a broad base of
interdisciplinary research and training to help industry,commerce and Government create wealth”. As a further sign ofthe merging of the public and private sectors, the BBSRC’schairman until January 2002 was Peter Doyle, a director ofbiotech giant Syngenta and the former executive director of GMcompany Zeneca (now part of Syngenta). Doyle originally tookup his BBSRC post while still Zeneca’s executive director. Doyle’sreplacement as chief executive is Professor Julia Goodfellow, thewife of geneticist Dr Peter Goodfellow, head of discoveryresearch at GlaxoSmithKline.
There has also been a 300% increase in the grant given by the
BBSRC to the Sainsbury Laboratory of the John Innes Centre
(JIC) in Norwich. The JIC is a plant biotechnology centre withmajor research alliances with Dupont. The BBSRC has beenaccused of instituting what has been called “a gagging order”that prevents all publicly funded researchers from speaking outon concerns about GM foods.
In a 2002 report called Delivering the commercialisation of
public sector science,
the National Audit Office examined thesteps taken by the state-owned research establishments to attractcommercial contracts and support. They cited with approval theexample of Celltech, a biotechnology company created in 1980which employed a total staff of 1,803 in the year to 31 December2000, including some 1,150 research and marketing staff in theUnited Kingdom and abroad. This was built on scienceoriginating in Medical Research Council laboratories.
The MRC has since created a separate company – Medical
Research Council Technology Ltd – “to lead thecommercialisation of research outputs” for the organisation’swork. The MRC was also instrumental in the creation of MVMLimited, a venture capital company managed by individuals fromthe private sector. This has two funds which invest in early stagelife science companies. The first, UK Medical Ventures Fund,raised £40m in 1998 and the second fund raised a similaramount in October 2001.
Medical Research Council
The “mission” of the Medical Research Council is “to choose the
most suitable commercial arrangement and the partner(s) judged
most likely to develop Medical Research Council technology into
products and services useful to society; to maximise the
contribution to national wealth creation and UK industrial
competitiveness; and to maximise income to the Medical Research
Council in the medium to long-term.”
The Treasury agreed in 1999 that research councils and research
establishments could retain the financial benefits of their commercial
activity and share this between them in whatever proportion they
agree. The Medical Research Council income has grown from
£150,000 in 1986-87 to some £7 million in 1999-2000 and £17.9
million in 2000-01.
Other research establishments have also obtained funds to
develop commercial activity. The Babraham Institute, forexample, obtained a £250,000 grant to refurbish laboratory andsupport facilities appropriate for use by “early stage companies”.
This attracted 19 companies to rent about 3,000 square metres
Scientists ‘asked to fix results for backer’
Daily Telegraph, 14 February 2000
One in three scientists working for government quangos or newly
privatised laboratories says he has been asked to adjust his
conclusions to suit his sponsor.
Contracting out and the commercialisation of scientific research are
threatening standards of impartiality, scientists claim. The survey
was conducted by the union representing research scientists, which
is campaigning against further privatisation of public laboratories.
The Institute of Professionals, Managers and Specialists says that
public safety could be harmed by the Government’s plans to bring
private funding into the National Air Traffic Services and the
Defence Evaluation and Research Agency. Privatisations over the
last few years have included the Radio Chemical Centre, now
Nycomed Amersham Laboratories, and the Atomic Energy
Authority, which trades as AEA Technology.
Charles Harvey, the institute’s spokesman, said an increasing
number of scientists had privately raised concerns with the union so
it had decided to include a question about the influence of sponsors
in a survey about pay and conditions. Thirty per cent of the 500
respondents said they had been asked to tailor their research
conclusions or resulting advice.
The figure included 17 per cent who had been asked to change their
conclusions to suit the customer’s preferred outcome, 10 per cent
who said they had been asked to do so to obtain further contracts
and three per cent who claimed they had been asked to make
changes to discourage publication.
“Some were working for quangos and some for fully privatised
laboratories,” said Mr Harvey. “The piper is calling the tune and it
raises worrying issues. We have seen the BSE crisis, food scares and
the GMO debacle and the public is losing confidence in Government
as an independent, fair-minded arbiter.”
of space at their bio-incubator site and generated £680,000 fromrents and services in 2000-01. But the NAO found that not allresearch sites were as enthusiastic and noted: “To meet theincreasing emphasis on commercialisation, a culture that is alsosupportive of commercial activity, which helps staff to overcomebarriers, such as the lack of recognition for commercialisationwork, is needed. This will require change in many ResearchEstablishments.”
Catching the corporate bug
The Royal Society, which was set up in 1660 as a counter-weight to
the anti-science, church-dominated universities of the time, boasts
that its independent status allows it to play a “crucial role as the
champion of top quality science and technology”. It too, however,
has caught the corporate bug. The Royal Society, has reported that
recent donors included BP, Esso UK, AstraZeneca, and Rolls-Royce.
Now the Society has introduced more formal processes to
“encourage the commercialisation of the products of scientific
research”. It has a series of awards and in 2004 launched its Science,
City, Industry Dialogue programme. The Society says it hopes that
the scheme will allow scientists to discuss ways in which their work
might be commercialised and industrialists to identify possible new
academic research partners, products and funding routes. It also
aims at helping “financiers to identify potential areas for new
investment”. So much for its vaunted independence.
The drive by successive governments to tie funding contracts todefined commercial outcomes has created stronger incentives forresearchers to pursue projects leading to patentable results.
Many universities have changed their rules and are encouragedto take shares in spin-off enterprises based on faculty research.
For example, Oxford University now claims ownership of“works generated by computer hardware or software owned oroperated by the university” and “patentable and non-patentableinventions”.
Corporate influence on science is also exerted through direct
funding of university research centres, which then have asignificant say in policy and research nationally. One of the mostnotorious examples of this is Nottingham University’sInternational Centre for Corporate Social Responsibility (!),which was set up with a £3.8m grant from British AmericanTobacco. Around 30 of the 200 professors at Nottingham holdsponsored chairs.
In The Captive State: The Corporate Takeover of Britain,
George Monbiot says that there is scarcely a university that hasnot been compromised by its funding arrangements. He explains:
Business now inhabits the cloisters of even the biggest and richestinstitutions. Cambridge University, for example, possesses a Shellchair in chemical engineering, BP professorships in organicchemistry and petroleum science, an ICI chair in appliedthermodynamics, a Glaxo chair of molecular parasitology, aUnilever chair of molecular science, a Price Waterhouse chair offinancial accounting and a Marks & Spencer chair of farm animalhealth and food science. Rolls-Royce, AT&T, Microsoft and thebiotechnology company Zeneca have all set up laboratories in theuniversity. In June 1999, BP gave the university £25m to fund work across fivedepartments. In November 1999, Cambridge set up an £84m jointventure, funded largely by the British government, partly byindustry, with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Itspurpose is to “change the face of business and wealth creation in theUK” by stimulating “research spin-offs” and “training the businessleaders of the future”. Cambridge’s vice chancellor explained: “Wemay once have been thought of as an ivory tower – today we are atower of high technology and business prowess”.
More recently, the pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithklineannounced a £44m investment in Imperial College, London, tobuild and equip a clinical imaging centre. The vice-chancellor ofImperial College, Sir Richard Sykes who has led the campaign foruniversity top-up fees, is a former chairman of GSK.
Britain is home to the headquarters of BP and Shell, two of the
world’s three largest fossil fuel companies. These companies, says
Degrees of capture
, a report by Corporate Watch and the NewEconomics Foundation, have succeeded in capturing theallegiance of some of Britain’s leading universities, throughsponsoring new buildings, equipment, professorships andresearch posts. In return for corporate sponsorship andcontracts, universities are encouraging oil companies to steer theresearch agenda, tailoring courses to meet corporate personneldemands and awarding high profile positions to oil executives.
The director of the BP Institute at Cambridge University is one ofthe company’s senior managers. The publicly-funded Engineeringand Physical Sciences Research Council determines academicgrants through a peer review council containing 12 oil or gasexecutives and just two renewable energy members.
According to the report, few universities have handed
themselves over so completely to the oil and gas industry asAberdeen, located in Europe’s oil capital. Principal ProfessorDuncan Rice admits: “We are genuinely committed to trying todo all we can to help [the oil and gas industry] through contractwork and through consultancy and, where possible, trainingprogrammes for people who are already in the labour force ofthe industry or moving towards it.” In 2002 Heriot-WattUniversity was restructured into six schools and two institutes –one of these latter being the Institute of Petroleum Engineering.
The Institute boasts that “we tailor our teaching and research tothe needs of the petroleum industry and place considerableimportance on the maintenance of close links with the industry”.
Principal and vice-chancellor of the university, Professor JohnArcher, himself a distinguished petroleum engineer, says: “AtHeriot-Watt we have always made a virtue of the fact that over50% of our income comes from our competitive endeavours inthe market place – be it in research, in university businesses or inoverseas markets.”
The International Petroleum Research Directory (IPRD) lists
about 1,000 research and development projects carried out inUK universities. Researchers Greg Muttitt and Chris Grimshawsay: “While the value of such research is protected byconfidentiality agreements, we can estimate that it is worth about£67m per year. Almost half of this research is geological – finding
where new fields are and how to exploit them. Most of the otherresearch focuses on the development of new technology anddrilling techniques, which enable the industry to extractpetroleum from ever more marginal, difficult and expensiveareas – such as the deep ocean – or to get more oil and gas outof existing fields. Thus most R&D serves to expand fossil fuelreserves.”
Distorting tthe rresultsThe commercialisation of science has other results too, includingthe concealment of poor performance. GSK is facing major legalactions in the United States over alleged covering up of negativetrial results involving its anti-depressant paroxetine (marketedthere as Paxil and in Britain as Seroxat). One action by NewYork state’s attorney general, Eliot Spitzer, charged the drugcompany with “repeated and persistent fraud” in suppressingevidence that suggested that paroxetine was ineffective in treatingdepression in adolescents. Spitzer has an internal memo from1998 which stated that it would be “commercially unacceptable”to admit that paroxetine did not work in children. It went on tosay that the company would have to “effectively manage thedissemination of these data in order to minimise any potentialnegative impact”. In August 2004, GSK settled with Mr Spitzerfor $2.5m, without admitting liability, but there are still severalclass actions outstanding against GSK regarding the withdrawalside-effects from Seroxat.
Earlier in the same year, UK government scientists accused the
drug companies of refusing to release evidence that anti-depressants can be harmful to children. Researchers preparingnew National Health Service guidelines for childhood depressionsaid they were astonished by the lack of co-operation from themanufacturers of SSRIs (selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors).
This family of drugs includes Lustral, Seroxat and Prozac. Withfive out of six SSRIs, the risks to children outweighed thebenefits, the unpublished data showed. Previously published datasuggested that the drugs were safe and effective in children. Atthat time, about 20,000 children were being prescribed the fivedrugs. SSRIs have never been approved for use with children in
Britain but have been used “off licence” by GPs. The NationalInstitute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) had asked the NationalCollaborating Centre for Mental Health to investigatetreatments for childhood depression.
Dr Tim Kendall, the co-director of the centre, which is
supported by the Royal College of Psychiatrists, looked first atthe published data on SSRIs and found they supported their usein children. When he and colleagues tried to obtain unpublishedtrial results, however, drug companies refused or ignored hisrequests. “We asked them for it and they would not give it tous,” he told The Daily Telegraph
(24 April 2004). Instead, thecentre’s researchers used unpublished data obtained by thegovernment’s Committee for the Safety of Medicines, which hasaccess to confidential findings. Their analysis of all publishedand unpublished data showed that the side effects of all but oneSSRI outweighed any advantages. Seroxat, for instance,increased the risk of suicidal thoughts, the team found. The onlydrug to have benefits in children was Prozac. Dr Kendall said thecompanies may have been unwilling to provide informationbecause it had already been submitted to a peer-reviewedjournal. Some data may have been commercially sensitive. Hesaid: “But I think there is growing evidence to suggest that drugcompanies are withholding trials that are unfavourable. This isworrying because we do lots of work for NICE and we relyalmost solely on published data. If we had seen only thepublished data, we might have concluded that SSRIs were worthprescribing to children.”
Another way that industry influences the direction of science is
by funding organisations which can lobby in their favour onscience-related issues. For example, pharmaceutical companiesfund some patients’ groups to lobby for new drugs, while theScientific Alliance was set up by money from the quarryingindustry. Sense About Science seems a harmless enough name.
But GM Watch, which analyses the underhand ways used bygenetic engineering corporations to get their message across, hasrevealed the truth about this organisation. Sense About Sciencestaff include Tracey Brown and Ellen Raphael. Both are also partof the extreme libertarian network behind the highly dubious
organisation, the Spiked
website, and the “Institute ofIdeas”, to all of which Brown and Raphael have contributed. LM
is the reincarnation of Living Marxism
, a magazine that claimedatrocities in the Yugoslav civil war were invented by journalists.
According to GM Watch, most of the members of Sense About
Science’s advisory council and board of trustees are well knownGM proponents. Funders include the Association of the BritishPharmaceutical Industry (ABPI), Amersham Biosciences plc,BBSRC, BP plc, GlaxoSmithKline and the biopharmaceuticalcompanies AstraZeneca plc, Pfizer plc and OxfordGlycoSciences. Sense about Science was created just in time forthe UK’s official GM Public Debate. After the debate had shownan overwhelming level of public opposition to GM cropcommercialisation, Sense About Science launched a mediacampaign.
A Sense About Science article appeared in The Times
headline “GM vandals force science firms to reduce research”.
Director Tracey Brown, was quoted as saying that: “The burdenof trying to organise the research community to pre-empt andprotect from vandalism is potentially disastrous”. Articles in theTimes Higher Education Supplement
) and elsewherewent still further, suggesting the debate had been hijacked by“activists” and that GM plant researchers were being subjectedto physical and mental abuse, leading some to take jobs abroad.
article, headlined “Scientists quit UK amid GMattacks”, included claims of intimidation by Chris Leaver (aSense About Science trustee) and Mike Wilson (a Sense AboutScience advisory panellist). Fiona Fox and Tony Gilland, whoboth sit on a Sense About Science Working Party, are also bothLM
contributors. Indeed, Fox penned the notorious LM
articledenying the Rwandan genocide.
Scientists who obstruct the commercialisation agenda come infor systematic hounding by more pro-business scientists, who uselearned journals to attack colleagues who do not conform tocorporate agendas. A recent example is the case of Dr AndrewStirling of Sussex University. He was not convinced about the
case for commercialisation of GM crops. He is an expert on riskassessment at the Science Policy Research Unit and was amember of the government’s GM Science Panel. He was privatelywarned by a senior pro-GM scientist that his research positionwould be under threat if he did not shift his position. The bestknown case in Britain was the attack on Dr Arpad Pusztai, whospoke out on the TV programme World in Action
about thehealth effects of GM based on his research. Because he brokeranks with the way the scientific establishment publishes itsfindings, Pusztai was suspended, gagged for months and hisresearch team was disbanded. At the time, he said of thescientific establishment: “Their remit was to screw me and theyscrewed me.”
In May 2002, George Monbiot, in an article published by the
Transnational Corporations Observatory
website, exposed howthe Bivings Group, a PR firm contracted to the biotech companyMonsanto helped shape scientific discourse – and almost destroythe careers of independent scientists. In 2001, two researchers atthe University of California, Berkeley published a paper inNature
magazine, which claimed that native maize in Mexicohad been contaminated, across vast distances, by GM pollen.
Before the publication, one of the scientists, Ignacio Chapela,was approached by the director of a Mexican corporation, whofirst offered him a glittering research post if he withheld hispaper, then told him that he knew where to find his children.
On the day the paper was published, messages started to
appear on an Internet discussion list used by more than 3,000scientists. The trickle turned into a flood and the pressure onNature
was so severe that its editor did something unparalleledin its 133-year history: he published, alongside two paperschallenging the findings, a retraction in which he wrote that theirresearch should never have been published. Monbiot latertracked “Mary Murphy” and “Andura Smetacek”, wholaunched the first attacks on the findings, to the same BivingsGroup that worked for biotech corporations.
Monbiot noted: “‘Sometimes,’ Bivings boasts, ‘we win awards.
Sometimes only the client knows the precise role we played.’Sometimes, in other words, real people have no idea that they are
being managed by fake ones.” Chapela was eventually deniedtenure by the University of California which had a controversialacademic-industrial partnership with the Swiss agribiotech firmSyngenta, which ended last year. He appealed. The resultingreport, issued on 28 June 2004, claims that Jasper Rine, ageneticist at the university who sat on a key committee reviewingChapela’s tenure, had conflicts of interest. It says that Rine hadfinancial dealings with biotech firms, oversaw the Syngentaagreement and had cited Chapela’s Nature
paper as an exampleof poor science in one of his classes. Both the dean of Chapela’scollege and his department chair requested that Rine be taken offthe committee four times; but Rine did not excuse himself nordid the committee chair ask him to leave.
In the United States, concerned professionals have formed the
Integrity in Science project. In their founding statement, they say:“Although many have cheered partnerships between industryand the research community, it is also acknowledged that theyentail conflicts of interest that may compromise the judgement oftrusted professionals, the credibility of research institutions andscientific journals, the safety and transparency of human subjectsresearch, the norms of free inquiry, and the legitimacy of science-based policy.” The scientists say, for example, that:
there is strong evidence that researchers’ financial ties to
chemical, pharmaceutical, or tobacco manufacturers directlyinfluence their published positions in supporting the benefit or downplaying the harm of the manufacturer’s product
a growing body of evidence indicates that pharmaceutical
industry gifts and inducements bias clinician judgement and influence doctors’ prescribing practices
there are well-known cases of industry seeking to discredit or
prevent the publication of research results that are critical ofits products
studies of life-science faculties indicate that researchers with
industry funding are more likely to withhold research resultsin order to secure commercial advantage
increasingly, the same academic institutions that are
responsible for oversight of scientific integrity and human
subjects protection are entering financial relationships with the industries whose product-evaluations they oversee.
In July 2003, scientists and industry watchdogs gathered inWashington to explore cases of industry-led manipulation anddistortion of scientific research, as part of the Integrity in Scienceproject. According to the speakers, several industries have madeso-called “junk science” – the publication of their own self-serving research results – common practice. Also common aresuppressing or criticising research that does not support theirposition and disseminating data or their own risk interpretationsdirectly to the lay press and policy makers. Many industries havedetailed plans in place to challenge scientific findings as soon asregulations appear that could threaten their bottom line, saidDavid Michaels, a research professor of occupational and healthservices at George Washington University.
Using the tobacco industry’s own documents, Lisa Bero, a
professor of clinical pharmacy at the University of California,San Francisco, described the ways in which tobacco companieshave intentionally manufactured doubt and controversy via theirown research findings in the hope of downplaying scientific
Research and profit
But increasingly over the years, and especially during the last 30
years since the Rothschild report, agricultural research has become
directed more towards commercial benefit (profit rather than
discovery), and in doing so it has become increasingly reactive,
having to respond to the perceived needs of industry and, indeed,
politics. As research has moved towards providing solutions for
industry, so industry has gained more control over the funding as a
customer paying for a service, with attendant controls over what is
done and how. Furthermore, as funding from government sources
has become more concerned with wealth creation and value for
money, it too has become increasingly responsive to pressures from
industry and, more or less directly, political influence.
Science, Agriculture and Research – a compromised participation?William Buhler
evidence that illustrates the health risks associated with cigarettesmoking and second-hand smoke.
Jeffrey Short, chief chemist for the National Marine Fisheries
Service investigation of the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill, described aseries of attacks on government science by Exxon. According toShort, Exxon manipulated data about the extent of the spill tosupport its claim that much of the seafloor near Alaska wasalready contaminated by natural oil seeps. Short also citedglaring abuses of scientific peer review, the manipulation ofscientific meeting agendas, and abuses of the Freedom ofInformation Act. Exxon used these to make very broad requests– including requests for data associated with research still inprogress – that slowed studies and interfered with theirpublication. “It has, in effect, reduced us to being fieldtechnicians for Exxon,” said Short, who took leave from his jobin order to speak out on the subject.
What are the results of this intense commercialisation of
science? Dr Stuart Parkinson, director of Scientists for GlobalResponsibility – an independent British-based organisationsupported by people like Stephen Hawking – believes that it leadsto a bias towards research that produces commercial returns. Ina speech in March 2004, he said:
For example, the BBSRC [the research council mentioned earlier) iscurrently funding 26 projects concerned with growing GM crops,but just one involving organic production. One important reasonfor this is that cutting-edge science can lead to an avalanche ofcommercially valuable patents – much faster than that generated bymore established science. For example, nanotechnology-relatedpatents in the United States rose by 500% in the ten years to 2002.
A knock-on effect from large amounts of funding going into hi-techR&D is that we can get what is known as “technology lock-in”.
This is where society becomes so reliant on particular technologiesthat it becomes very difficult and expensive to change direction ifthey are found to be problematic. One classic example is nuclearpower. Political decisions over the last half-century have meant thatthe lion’s share of R&D funding for energy in industrialisedcountries has been directed towards this technology, while
alternatives like renewables have seen much lower levels ofinvestment. Figures from the International Energy Agency showthat R&D on renewables has rarely reached 25% of that spent onnuclear fission during the last 25 years. The consequence now isthat attempts to phase out the technology due to concerns about,for example, links to nuclear weapons, vulnerability to terrorism orthe dangers of nuclear waste are countered by the argument that wecannot afford to do without it because alternatives (eg renewableenergy) are not sufficiently developed.
The second effect of industrial involvement is that more research issteered towards areas which can yield a commercial return, so thatwork developing a new product or process tends to be prioritisedover, for example, work examining environmental or human healthimpacts of an existing product or process.
Capitalism and science
As socialists, we do not criticise the commoditisation of science in
order to appeal for a return to times before science became a
commodity… The commoditisation of science, its full incorporation
into the process of capitalism, is the dominant fact of life for
scientific activity and a pervasive influence on the thinking of
scientists. To deny its relevance is to remain subject to its power,
while the first step towards freedom is to acknowledge the
dimensions of our unfreedom. As working scientists, we see the
commoditisation of science as the prime cause of the alienation of
most scientists from the products of their labour. It stands between
the powerful insights of science and corresponding advances in
human welfare, often producing results that contradict the stated
The Dialectical Biologist, Richard Levins and Richard Lewontin
28 de septiembre de 2011 COMUNIDAD UNIVERSITARIA CARIBBEAN UNIVERSITY BAYAMÓN, CAROLINA, PONCE Y VEGA BAJA ESTADISTICAS CRIMINALES 2010 La Ley 101-542 conocida en inglés como Student Right to Know and Campus Security Act o Jeanne Clery Act, requiere que se recopilen y divulguen las estadísticas criminales y además, se mantenga informada a la Comunidad Universitaria sobre los
CONFERENCE ON STRATEGIC DIRECTIONS IN RESERVES MANAGEMENT FOR THE NORTH AFRICA AND SUB-SAHARAN AFRICA REGIONS It is an honour and privilege for me to be a part of this Reserves Management Conference which the World Bank is hosting in collaboration with the Bank of England and Banque de France. The range of topics to be covered over the next two days is impressive, and we should a