Wednesday 28

«Science was never intended to be in the market, but today it’s a commodity» - interview with Andrea Saltelli

Posted by Social Observatory of "la Caixa" on 28 Jun 2017

«Science was never intended to be in the market, but today it’s a commodity»

Interview with Andrea Saltelli - originally published at Social Observatory "la Caixa"

Andrea Saltelli (Italy, 1953) is adjunct professor at the Centre for the Study of the Sciences and the Humanities at the University of Bergen (Norway) and guest researcher at the Institute of Environmental Science and Technology at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona. Together with philosopher Silvio Funtowicz he has recently written a series of pieces on the post-truth debate.   

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Everybody is talking about a crisis in science... What’s it about?

First of all, there is a crisis in replicability which is especially evident in the medical field, replicability meaning that a study should produce the same results if repeated exactly. Many articles have been written by people who attempted to replicate experiments and were disappointed to find how many of them failed. For instance, John Ioannidis and others have tried to replicate preclinical and clinical experiments.

 

What are the causes of this crisis?

This discussion can be thrown open very wide because there is a chain of causes. The main one is that science was never thought or designed to be in the market. But today science is a commodity: it is in the market, and it’s sold at a price. Historian Philip Mirowski has detailed this process in a book called Science-Mart. Privatizing American Science. It’s a play on words to express that when science becomes a supermarket, when it becomes too much of a commodity and it’s sold over the counter, the result is that its quality disappears.

 

Is this happening in all disciplines?

It affects all fields; it is also notable in psychology. Nobel Prize laureate Daniel Kahneman, who wrote the book Thinking, Fast and Slow, was the first person to realize that something was going really wrong because experiments could not be replicated. Auguste Comte, a mid-19th century philosopher, thought that sciences follow a hierarchy, according to how close they are to exact laws. So at the top you have mathematics, geometry, and then you have physics, chemistry, biology and the social sciences. The more you move away from the top, from exact laws, the closer you get to domains where things become messier, more complex. Nearly two centuries after Comte, Daniele Fanelli looked at reproducibility rates across disciplines. He found that the lower you travel down the hierarchy of sciences, the greater the increase in positive results, which confirmed his hypothesis that 'softer' disciplines are more prone to bias.

 

In this sense, where are the limits of science?

Science cannot solve every problem. Reductionism is the idea that you can take a complex system, cut it down into bits, and if you study all the bits, then you understand the complex system. But there are systems which cannot be treated in this way, for example living systems. Whenever you want to study a biological system, you have to somehow delimit it. But how do you delimit it? In organisms, everything is linked to everything else.

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Tuesday 30

Conference "Responsible Research and Innovation in the health industry"- key messages from round tables

Posted by RRI Tools on 30 May 2017

 

The way forward: key messages from round tables 

Closing remarks by Ignasi López at the Conference “Responsible Research and Innovation in the Health Industry” held at the EESC premises, in Brussels, on 18 and 19 May 2017.

I would like to thank all speakers and the moderator. This Conference is a joint initiative of the ELSI Board of the EIT Health and the Final Conference of the Responsible Industry project, together with the European Commission, the EESC and the “la Caixa" Foundation, who I do represent.  I would like to thank them all.

 I was asked to wrap up. And it is an honor to do so. 

 1st day: May 18th – some key messages:

  • “No research and innovation about me without me”: there is a bottom up claim from society
  • And a political answer:  the framework of RRI 
    • A number of challenges are ahead
    • In a very complex context

And a headline from EESC: “RRI - or however we call it - seems to be mature enough to embed it in the biggest R&I funding programme in the world: FP9”

In the 1st round table we saw amazing experiences of citizen engagement in different fields of R&I in the health sector: engagement of patients in the editorial process, as end users of innovation, as innovators… Through living labs, maker spaces, citizen science, biolabs, science museums, in industry (big corporates, SMEs and entrepreneurs...)

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Friday 10

RRI in Europe: What´s next?

Posted by RRI Tools on 10 Feb 2017

Interview with Kurt Vandenberghe - Director of Policy Development and Coordination, DG Research and Innovation, European Commission.

 

 

What is the future of RRI....?

Well, I think there is an important future for RRI. It really goes to the heart of what we are trying to promote, what Commissioner Moedas is trying to promote, namely open science, open innovation; which means, user driven, data driven, but also responsive towards what society asks and expects. And that is where responsible research and innovation comes in. It is very important to show that science and innovation are not only relevant for society, but that we can also have the trust of society. And we do that by having all the ethical criteria that should be respected, by having gender equality policies, open access to data and to publications, but also by having more and more engagement with the public, with stakeholders, with citizens, on why we do science, what kind of science we do, and what we do the science for.

 

... we need to widen the concept of excellence in science

I think we have to always keep in mind that excellence is the prime driver for science, for the quality of science. But excellent science does not mean science in an ivory tower, it does not only mean science that ends up in publications or in patents. What we want from excellent science is impact and that can have impact in terms of value, not only for science itself, but also for society. So we need to come to a broader concept of excellent science, which is not only about publications or patents, but also about the value it can create, and it should create, for economy, for society, by engaging with society. What is important is that we promote excellence in science in a broader concept, but always respecting, following the scientific method. So what matters is applying the scientific method, but nothing says that excellent science is only science for science. It should also be science with and for society

 

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Wednesday 01

Breaking walls, changing structures: an overview

Posted by Sergio Villanueva on 01 Feb 2017

Summary of the parallel session "Breaking walls, changing structures" coordinated by Sergio Villanueva and Ignasi López at the RRI Tools Final Conference

Structural change has become a central pivoting axis in the EU science policy priorities, and for this reason EC has directed its gaze towards new and innovative research governance structures. The RRI Tools Final Conference hosted a parallel session entitled “Breaking Walls, Changing Structures” devoted to structural change that gathered some of the most relevant actors and organizations involved in creating responsive and deliberative research governance settings in Europe. 

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Friday 03

Inspire more

Posted by Antonina Khodzhaeva and Gonçalo Praça on 03 Feb 2017

Summary of the parallel session "Inspiring and being inspired" hosted by Ecsite and Ciência Viva at the RRI Tools Final Conference

There are so many different ways of thinking about one thing, and especially when it comes to such a thing like RRI, there are definitely many approaches and perspectives. In this session, we wanted to share new perspectives and inspiring approaches to RRI and show the examples and practices that provide solutions to the Horizon 2020 societal challenges and/or address sustainability development goals.

To achieve this aim, the format of the session had to be something innovative, and an interactive theatre intervention was perfectly suitable for that purpose. This format brought together all the participants of the session for a playful exploration of hopes and concerns regarding synthetic biology, and such format itself reflected the values of RRI. A facilitator guided the theatrical debate and the whole interaction between attendees and actors. Participants were challenged to think about, reflect upon, and anticipate the issues portrayed in several scenes – for instance, should an aging father accept his daughter suggestion to use a new life-extending biotechnology?

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