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Science, Money and Politics: Political Triumph and Ethical Erosion [Hardcover]

Daniel Greenberg

Price: 33.50 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

8 Oct 2001
Each year, Congress appropriates billions of dollars for scientific research. Each year, scientists complain of insufficient funding and lobby (usually unsuccessfully) for more money. This book explores who recieves the money, and the tactics they use to get it. From the end of World War II to 2001, and from medical research to particle physics, Daniel S. Greenberg reveals the little-known but all-pervasive links among science, money, and politics in the United States. He draws on archival research and interviews with presidential science advisers, congressional and White House staffers, and elected officials. The book reveals: the exaggerated claims of disease cures; how politicians supportive of medical research are rewarded with buildings named for them at the National Institutes of Health; why Ronald Reagan's science advisers remained silent, even though they knew that false claims were being made for a scientific breakthrough in the Star Wars missile-defence programme; and how, even as research lagged in the expiring USSR, leading American scientists warned Congress of Soviet scientific superiority - and the need for increased US funding to counter it. This work aims to blow the whistle on the scientists, politicians, and government officials who sacrifice ethics - and science itself - for money.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 528 pages
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press; 2nd edition (8 Oct 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226306348
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226306346
  • Product Dimensions: 24 x 16 x 4 cm
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,579,164 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Amazon Review

In Science, Money, and Politics--a wide-ranging indictment of the way in which science is conducted in the United States--journalist Daniel Greenberg writes that 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. 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"; 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 corporatised--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 criticised, 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-defence 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


"Greenberg's profoundly important new book depicts American 'Big Science' as a classic self-perpetuating bureaucracy. . . . [It] is better documented than most National Academy of Sciences reports yet reads as briskly as a Dashiell Hammett detective story. . . . For four decades, Greenberg has been the conscience of American science writers. . . . We need more Greenbergs. . . . This admirable book should be required reading for science policy makers, science journalists, and any American who gives a damn whenever science"--"one of the nation's crown jewels--falls into irresponsible hands."--Keay Davidson "Scientific American "

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Amazon.com: 4.6 out of 5 stars  7 reviews
18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best of Four Books That Blend Together Nicely 19 Oct 2005
By Robert David STEELE Vivas - Published on Amazon.com
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.

2) Neither Congress nor the Executive have a serious strategy for prioritizing problems, finding private sector partners, and providing seed money for innovative solutions.

3) Both Congress and the Executive, as well as the public and the media, are incredibly ignorant about what science can and cannot do, and where all the money is going to generally poor effect.

4) This is all so important that Science, like Intelligence, needs its own Supreme Court. I am persuaded we need a new form of hybid public agency that is fully independent of the Executive, receiving a percentage of the total disposable budget (say 3%) and hence not subject to Congression pressures.

If you buy only one book, buy this one--but you will be missing important alternative thoughts from the other three.
15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Science for Sale? 7 Sep 2001
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
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.
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mix three volatile reactive elements and you get a mess 19 April 2002
By Amazon Customer - Published on Amazon.com
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. Greenberg shows this lobbying effort for increased funds as a knowingly false issue pushed by a merger of institutional and academic interests. Greenberg quotes a US Office of Management & Budget Report which had this to say about scientists: "They are the quintessential special interest group..."
He has much to say on the inflated claims of many projects. Although he specifically mentions the aborted Superconducting Super Collider (SSC), it is clear he views more recent projects such as the Human Genome Project, and cloning, in the same light. Greenberg doesn't allow the book to end as a mere polemic though. He makes an interesting recommendation for the conversion of the NSF into a National Science, Engineering & Humanities Foundation. This is more in recognition of the need for a new "ethic" rather than as the desirability of conflating all knowledge to scientific methods as some scientists (E.O Wilson in CONSILIENCE) have recently called for.
Regardless of where you are in the sciences this book is sure to affect you. Many of the excesses and cases of influence and false claims are known about, and more importantly have already been condemned by well thinking professionals. Nevertheless by presenting it in such a readable format Greenberg will enjoy significant readership among the skeptical public. This at a time when science is engaged in the most far reaching issues for humanity, only means that scientists can expect more questions from an interested, and much better informed public.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Keeping a rein on science 5 Feb 2005
By Amazon Customer - Published on Amazon.com
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.

And it is not just science that gets tainted with money and corporate influence, but knowledge as a whole. Thus corporate greed and the limitless pursuit of profit seem to negatively effect everyone within reach, and it is not scientific objectivity alone that suffers, but learning as well. No wonder why certain bioethical debates seems to be so one-sided. The recent stem cell debate is just one example where Big Biotech is buying its way into science and the media, regardless of the outcome for the rest of society.

And Greenberg notes how the popular press acts mainly as a puppet of science, especially biomedical research. It routinely pumps out what is told to, without asking the hard questions it does of politicians and others. This is indeed the case with reports of scientific-medical progress. Greenberg calls this "may" journalism. Stem cells may do this. Cloning may do that. Gene therapy may deliver the goods. We are wowed by reports of potential medical breakthroughs, but they are just that: potential. However, the way the media presents them, it seems like a cure for Parkinson's disease will arrive next week. Thus we find a collusion between certain scientists, various industries (eg., the Biotech industry), and a gullible and/or subservient media.

And of course this collusion acts as a giant feed-back loop. Journalists need good news stories, and scientists and the corporations need people to think they are just on the verge of a major medical breakthrough, if only a bit more funding were forthcoming. The one feeds of the other, and a disease-weary public, believing that immortality is just around the corner, will go along with it. And governments also get into the act, claiming that if we over-regulate things like cloning or stem cell research, all the research will move interstate or overseas, leaving them behind. So there is a grand mingling of state, corporate and public interests taking place, making it even harder for science to claim any sort of neutrality and objectivity.

If religious leaders and politicians today are subject to intense scrutiny and ethical appraisal (and rightly so), then perhaps it is time to extend the same treatment to scientists. And one place to begin is by reading this important and timely book.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars By far the best work on this subject 28 Feb 2002
By Frank W. Dobbs - Published on Amazon.com
This is the definitive book on this topic. The author has been reporting this subject for over 40 years and has personally interviewed most of the major players. Plenty of facts and figures but interestingly written. Neither "Gosh, how wonderful Science is" or an expose' of how tarnished Science is. Extremely objective and written by a man who knows as much or more about this subject as anyone around.Historians will use this as a reference for a long time.
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