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Playing Politics with ScienceBalancing Scientific Independence and Government Oversight$
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David B. Resnik

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780195375893

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2009

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195375893.001.0001

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The Autonomy of Science

The Autonomy of Science

(p.51) 3 The Autonomy of Science
Playing Politics with Science

David B. Resnik (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

This chapter uses ethical theories and historical case studies to argue for the autonomy of science within limits: namely, for the autonomy of scientists based on their human rights (autonomy of scientists should be restricted only for a compelling social purpose and restriction should be the minimum necessary to achieve this purpose), and for the autonomy of scientific organizations and institutions based on the utility (benefits/harms) of allowing scientific organizations and institutions to be self‐governing. To produce useful results for society, such as knowledge with practical applications and policy implications, scientists should be allowed to make decisions within their domain of expertise, free from outside interference and control. However, autonomy of scientific organizations may be restricted if the social benefits of restrictions outweigh the harms. There are a variety of legitimate reasons for such restrictions, including promoting health and safety, protecting the environment, ensuring financial accountability, promoting research integrity, protecting human and animal research subjects, and establishing fair employment practices. The government should enact restrictions that benefit society while doing minimal damage to science, and government oversight of science should be appropriately balanced, well‐measured, and fair.

Keywords:   science, autonomy, human rights, oversight, restrictions

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