Science, Politics and the 2008 Election

15sci083681 Don Gorman talks to Shiela Jasanoff, professor of Science and Public Policy at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, in Seed:

Seed: How have you seen the campaigns responding to this surge of political engagement from the American science community?

SJ: Senator Hillary Clinton took the opportunity of the 50th anniversary of the launch of Sputnik to speak at the Carnegie Institution of Washington about what she’d do for science. She said she would restore the integrity of science in Washington, and lift the stem cell funding ban. Clearly her handlers thought from the start that an important speech about science would be an astute and salient thing to do.Seed: How would you advise the incoming administration on science’s engagement with the democratic process?

SJ: I think the challenge is about democratizing science itself: that is, bringing a sense of democracy back into the ways in which we develop and do science in society. I would say that’s the big challenge for the new administration.

Seed: So you’re suggesting that it’s science, rather than government, that isn’t open and democratic enough?

SJ: We should be thoroughly concerned about aspects of our lives that are being planned and designed in invisible places by experts who we don’t know how to interrogate. We don’t have a delegation or representation where these kinds of ideas are being generated and when decisions are being made. We need better democracy in science.