Posts Tagged ‘science policy’
By: Bethanie Morrison
According to the National Strategy for Countering Biological Threats, “we are experiencing an unparalleled period of advancement and innovation in the life sciences globally that continues to transform our way of life.”1 This advancement in life sciences is driven by developments in international academic institutions, industrial research centers, private laboratories (i.e. Do-it-Yourself Biology) and government research facilities. The evolution of a global research community and the relationships such an entity can foster have major implications for the United States in terms of our foreign policy objectives. In the pre-9/11 edition of Bruce Jentleson’s American Foreign Policy2, he lists 5 main reasons why U.S. foreign policy is especially important in this post-Cold War era. The 5 points are summarized here, and you can see how our foreign policy and science policy agendas are inherently linked:
1. The U.S. still faces significant threats to its national security (biodefense).
2. The U.S. economy is becoming increasingly internationalized (technology imports and exports).
3. Areas of policy previously considered “domestic” have been internationalized (STEM education).
4. The increasing diversity of the U.S. population makes for a larger number of citizens with personal interests in foreign policy (areas of research funding, i.e. Malaria, HIV/AIDS).
5. The U.S. cannot claim to be true to its most basic values if it ignores its violations internationally (global health system research).
In addition, Jentleson suggests that all foreign policy decisions can be analyzed by a framework of ‘4Ps,’ which stands for Power, Peace, Prosperity and Principles. While each policy can be analyzed in terms of the 4Ps, it is rare for all four to be simultaneously achievable within each policy decision. It is interesting to apply this analytical framework to the foreign policy involved in science policy and vice versa. While this analysis will differ from policy to policy, the significance of each of the 4Ps may differ from political party to political party, making this a dynamic and interesting analytic process. Below is a sample of how a 4Ps framework may be applied to science policy in terms of foreign policy.
Power: This is important for self-defense, deterring aggression and exerting influence over other nations. For example bioterrorism and biodefense strategies, and most DoD-funded research, provides outlets for science policy to influence the US’s position of power internationally. In addition, ensuring continued competitiveness in STEM education and U.S. involvement in “big science” (ie. The Human Genome Project) will require policies that allow us to be the authority on science thereby exerting our influence over other nations.
Peace: This is important in terms of international management, diplomacy, and shows the importance of international institutions. With regard to science policy, our relationships and collaborations fostered with other nations that are based on science and technology are critical to maintaining peace. The globalization of science and international product development partnerships have improved our relationships with many European nations and are now expanding to our relationships with Asia. Of particular interest is the formation of positive partnerships with major international forces such as Russia and China. While there remain mistrust issues between the U.S. and China3, working together on a scientific goal may be a form of diplomacy that eases tensions moving forward.
Prosperity: This relates to trade agreements and international economic policies that improve the U.S. financial system. The ways in which science translates into finance center around technology development and trade. This may involve regulatory mechanisms and policies regarding pharmacological agents and technology.
Principles: These are the values, ideals and beliefs for which the U.S. claims to stand. Global health initiatives play the largest role in U.S. foreign policy principles aside from our fight against terrorism. Global health policy encompasses a broad range of research areas including clean water, children and women’s health issues, eradication of diseases and improvement of health care systems world-wide4.
The question is, how would you rank these 4Ps in terms of importance in U.S. foreign policy, and does that ranking system differ when thinking strictly in terms of U.S. science policy and funding? Why? Consider writing to your representatives expressing your ideas or concerns in terms of something bigger than your lab. You never know what could happen!References 1. National Strategy for Countering Biological Threats. National Security Council, November 2009. 2. Jentleson, Bruce W., American Foreign Policy: the Dynamics of Choice in the 21st Century. W.W. Norton and Company, July 2013. 3. Lieberthal, K., Jisi, W., Addressing US-China Strategic Mistrust. John L. Thornton China Center at the Brookings Institute, March 2012. 4. Kaiser Family Foundation 2013 Survey of Americans on the U.S. Role in Global Health, November 2013.
By: Rebecca Cerio
One of the more scientifically bizarre stories lately has been the conviction of Italian scientists and engineers in the L’Aquila earthquake trial. To summarize, during a swarm of small earthquakes, a government-sponsored panel told the people of the L’Aquila region that the tremors were nothing to worry about and that they were believed to disperse energy and reduce the chance of a larger earthquake. (In the past, such swarms preceded only a tiny fraction of large earthquakes.) Six days later, a large earthquake hit the region, killing over 300 people. The scientists were tried for the deaths of about 30 of those people, who–reassured by the scientists’ words–stayed in their homes when the quake struck, instead of rushing outside to more open, safer ground.
Scientists, predictably, have shook their heads in dismay at the Italian court’s verdict (convictions of manslaughter and 6-year sentences). They have, understandably, pointed out that there was no way that the scientists could predict an earthquake and that they should not be punished for giving the best advice they could given the data they had. The prosecution has pointed out that the defendants were not being charged with incorrectly predicting an earthquake but instead incorrectly communicating the RISK of an earthquake. In essence, the scientists were charged and found guilty of giving people a false sense of security that convinced the victims to change their behavior in an ultimately lethal way.
Whether the scientists gave people bad advice or whether they gave them good advice that simply turned out to be wrong is still unclear and is perhaps something that only Mother Nature would be able to testify about, but it gets right at the crux of a very pointed issue: how should scientists convey risk and uncertainty about their data to the public, particularly in life-and-death scenarios? How much responsibility do scientists have to convey that risk accurately? And what legal blame do scientists have to accept when people interpret and use that data to justify acting in ways that lead to injury or death? Read the rest of this entry »