The Commerce and Politics of Science
An International Conference

University of Notre Dame
September 21-24, 2006

 

THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 21

7:30 PM Keynote Address:

Sheldon Krimsky (Tufts University). "Academic Entrepreneurship and the Integrity of Science: Are They Reconcilable."

 

FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 22

9:00-10:30 AM Plenary Session:

Democracy and the Commercialization of Science

Rachelle Hollander (NSF). "US Funding for Science."
Dominique Pestre (Ecole des Hautes Etudes). "The Technosciences between Markets, Society, and Politics Today: The Need for Better Images and Alternative Scenarios."

11:00-12:30 AM Contributed Papers:

Hugh Lacey (Swarthmore College and University of Sao Paulo). "Transgenic Crops: A Case Study of the Impact of Commercial and Political Interests on Science."
Ann Johnson (University of South Carolina). "Public Proprietary Knowledge? The (alleged) Conflict between Commercialization and the Public Character of Scientific Knowledge."

Justin Biddle {University of Notre Dame and Bielefeld University). "On Privatizing Science: Is Vioxx a Sign of Things to Come?"
Justus Lensch (Bielefeld University)."Assessing the Quality of Scientific Expertise: How to Design Regulatory Peer Review Procedures under Conflict of Interests."

2:00-3:30 PM Contributed Papers:

Joy Rohde (University of Pennsylvania). "Defending Democracy: Social Scientists, Military Patronage, and the Cold War Politics of Knowledge."
Torsten Wilholt
(Bielefeld University). "Two Arguments for Freedom of Research."

Elizabeth Boyd and Daniel Cook (University of California, San Francisco). "Assessing the Impact of Commercial Interests on Science and Policy: A Cross-Disciplinary Analysis."

4:00-5:30 Plenary Session:

Commercialization and the Philosophy of Science

Susan Haack (University of Miami). "Science 'For a Consideration': An Epistemological Analysis of Litigation-Driven Research."
James R. Brown (University of Toronto). "Regulation and Research."

7:30 PM Keynote Address:

Robert Berdahl (American Association of Universities). "Privatization of Public Universities."

 

SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 23

9:00-10:30 Plenary Session:

Commerce, Politics, and Science in the US and EU: Comparative Perspectives

Martin Carrier (Bielefeld University). "Funding Policies in Light of Practical Goals: A Philosophical Perspective."
John Krige (Georgia Institute of Technology). "Science, Commerce, and US Foreign Policy."

11:00-12:30 Contributed Papers:

Samuel Randalls {University of Oxford}. "Commercializing Meteorology: Weather, Finance, and Derivatives."
Davis Baird and Vivek Thakur (University of South Carolina). "Two Roads from Laboratory to Commercial Product."

2:00-3:30 Panel Discussion:

Commercialization and Technology Transfer in the University

Craig Christianson (Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation)
James Merz (University of Notre Dame)

4:00-5:30 Plenary Session:

Scholarly Duties and Private Interest Science

Kristin Shrader-Frechette (University of Notre Dame). "Scholarly Duties and Private-Interest Science."

7:30 PM Keynote Address:

Philip Mirowski (University of Notre Dame). "Viridiana Jones and the Temple of Mammon; Or, Adventures in Neoliberal Science Studies."

PROGRAM DESCRIPTION

Controversies over the growth of private funding of scientific research and representations of science for political ends have surged in recent years. In the United States recent books by Derek Bok and Sheldon Krimsky have sounded alarms, respectively, about how private funding may be undermining the mission of the university and distorting biomedical research. Meanwhile, a group of distinguished scientists recently cited numerous instances alleging that the current U.S. administration has misrepresented science to advance its political interests, followed by a partial rebuttal from the President’s science advisor. However, these controversies are not limited to the United States. They are also of great interest in Europe and are central to debates there over the proper regulatory framework of science. How should we assess these controversies?

We may begin by comparing the situation today with that of the late 1940s and early 1950s. During this period the design of institutions like NSF took place in the context of a broad, deep, and theoretically sophisticated public discussion of the nature of science and how different institutional arrangements can encourage or discourage the development of science. By comparison, the massive changes being renegotiated today are occurring largely outside of public debate and without historical, philosophical, and sociological reflection on the consequences. The attention given then to the Merton norms and to Vannevar Bush's Science: The Endless Frontier illustrates the role theoretical reflection played fifty and sixty years ago.

There is clearly a need for similar kinds of theoretical reflection on today’s developments. Two central concerns that guided discussions about science in the mid-twentieth century have resurfaced as sources of contemporary unease. First, how do commercial and political interests shape scientific knowledge and practice, both now and in the past? Second, is it possible to say that one or another economic or political context is favorable or unfavorable to science or more likely or less likely to produce "good science?" These questions encompass an entire range of distinct yet inseparable issues: setting research agendas; producing technical, theoretical, or experimental knowledge; justifying claims; and utilizing that knowledge in political or commercial domains. Full consideration of the relationships between politics, commerce, and science therefore invites analysis from a wide range of disciplinary perspectives, including history, philosophy, anthropology, economics, sociology, law, and political science.

Within this historical, philosophical, social, legal, and political context we can identify four interrelated areas. One is the source of funding (e.g., NSF, private sources, congressional earmarks). How do different financial and political interests determine research agendas and affect peer review processes? A second area is institutional contexts of research. How does private funding affect the mission and practice of scientific inquiry in the university? What difference does it make whether research is conducted in a university or in a corporate laboratory? A third area is the communication and dissemination of scientific research. What impact does proprietary research have on the procedures and purposes of scientific journals? What impact does it have on the dissemination of scientific research generally? Finally, a fourth area is the political arena itself. How are science and scientific research represented in contexts where partisan political matters are at stake? What are the civic roles of science itself and of scientists in a climate where science is intertwined with partisan policy concerns?

These issues are not unique to the United States. They are also widely debated in Europe and other regions. Collaboration with experts in the philosophy and sociology of science at the University of Bielefeld, Germany, will allow for an international dimension and regional comparisons regarding all of the issues identified above. In conjunction with the University of Bielefeld, the Reilly Center will sponsor an international conference on these issues in the early fall of 2006. The goal is to assemble distinguished participants in current debates on the topics identified above and eventually to publish the papers with a distinguished press. While various conferences on the general topic of commerce, politics, and science have been held in recent years, this conference will break new ground by inviting perspectives from disciplines ranging from the history and philosophy of science to public policy and by offering a trans-Atlantic conversation.

 

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