How should we treat science’s growing pains?

Jerome Ravetz in The Guardian:

ScreenHunter_2039 Jun. 17 15.33As noted already in the Guardian’s science pages, there is no lack of initiatives to tackle science’s crisis in all its aspects, from reproducibilityto the abuse of metrics, to the problems of peer review. This gives good grounds for hope that the crisis will eventually be resolved, and that it will not become a general crisis of trust in science. Should that occur, and ‘science’ ceases to be a key cultural symbol of both truth and probity, along with material beneficence, then the consequences could be far-reaching. To that end, we should consider what lies behind the malpractices whose exposure has triggered the crisis over the last decade.

It is clear that a combination of circumstances can go far to explain what has gone wrong. Systems of controls and rewards that had evolved under earlier conditions have in many ways become counterproductive, producing perverse incentives that become increasingly difficult for scientists to withstand. Our present problems can be explained partly by the transformation from the ‘little science’ of the past to the ‘big science’ or ‘industrialised science’ of the present. But this explanation raises a problem: if the corrupting pressures are the result of the structural conditions of contemporary science, can they be nullified in the absence of a significant change in those conditions?

More here.