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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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Government Funding of Science

Government Funding of Science

(p.115) 5 Government Funding of Science
Playing Politics with Science

David B. Resnik (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

This chapter considers the role of political and scientific considerations in decision‐making about government funding of research. It argues that while public input and scientific input are both important, there must be a proper balance of each. Scientists need to heed the advice of politicians and concerned citizens, aware of research areas that are important to the public and fulfilling their responsibilities to society. Political influences on funding decisions can hinder scientific progress and objectivity, though, so the government should exert some control over funding decisions through general oversight and guidance. Micromanagement of funding decisions should be avoided, except in rare cases in which unethical (or incompetent) research slips through the peer review system. Moreover, wherever possible, all science projects should undergo some form of peer review. Pork barrel science should be avoided. Special restrictions on the use of government funds should be imposed only when a clear majority favors such restrictions and the restrictions have a sunset clause. Scientists who work for the government, like their academic colleagues, have rights to free speech; however, the government may impose minimal restrictions on such scientists' rights to promote research quality and integrity and clear and consistent policy communications.

Keywords:   science, government funding, micromanagement, progress, objectivity, restrictions, free speech

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