Who Owns Science??

The Manchester Manifesto (entitled “Who Owns Science?”) was published last week and, as Arthur pointed out in a comment in another thread, (Just too Bizarre) it seems  “…nicely timed to coincide with “Climategate” [having demonstrated]  abuse of  “Intellectual Property” to protect scientific tribalism.”

It’s a moderately worded manifesto, but it’s signed by about 50 scientists and other “experts” and its focus is on the way in which the notion of intellectual property (IP) is a threat to innovation.

“….the current dominant model of innovation and commercialisation of science poses a number of problems. It has potential to encourage innovation and scientific research and development, but also to frustrate innovation and stifle research”

Here’s a longer excerpt from Arthur’s comment as a discussion starter:

“While very moderately worded, it has a suitably extensive list of signatories to stimulate discussion that will inevitably hook up with the more aggressive (and widely supported) Free and Open Source Software movement,  which  confronts the same problem in engineering (and hence in everything), and related “Open Culture” movements (wikipedia etc) etc, that link directly to mass rejection of property rights in music, video and games by file sharing.

I’ve always thought (eg with “Software Liberation” in early 1980s) that this stuff is central to linking communist ideas about capitalist relations of production fettering the productive forces with practical political struggles.

There’s also a possible opening in Australia at the moment with a transparently silly scheme likely to go through against opposition from Nationals, Liberals and Greens – none of whom have the slightest credibility.

How about (seriously) proposing that they should offer an “alternative” of Australia spending as much on science and R&D towards cheaper base load primary energy,  as other countries do on restricting carbon emissions. And with no IP rights, since  that would only hinder our contribution to the common world effort to “do something”  …but  we would prefer to do something “actually useful”.  Spin-offs to Australia,  instead of IP,  are a generally higher tech workforce  – like the spin-off to US from military and (related) space programs.”

And below are some other articles, which may be of interest:

Science in Shackles

Grant system Leads Science Researchers to Play it Safe

Seeking a Shorter Path to New Drugs

16 Responses to “Who Owns Science??”

  1. 1 jim sharp

    “who owns science?
    It wud seem elementry to me ‘tis the current ruling oligopolies, but then I wudn’t expect a genuine pseudoe to get it.
    The principle of endless accumulation that defines capitalism is synonymous with exponential growth, and the latter, like cancer, leads to death. John Stuart Mill, who recognized this, imagined that a “stationary state of affairs” would put an end to this irrational process. John Maynard Keynes shared this optimism of Reason. But neither was equipped to understand how the necessary overcoming of capitalism could prevail. By contrast, Marx, by giving proper importance to the emerging class struggle, could imagine the reversal of power of the capitalist class, concentrated today in the hands of the ruling oligarchy…
    According to this perspective, it seems to me necessary to conceive of the condition for the renewal of a creative Marxism. Marx has never been so useful and necessary in order to understand and transform the world — today even more so than yesterday. Being Marxist in this spirit is to begin with Marx and not to stop with him — or Lenin or Mao — as conceived and practiced by the historical Marxisms of the previous century. It is to render onto Marx that which is owed him: the intelligence to have begun critical thinking, a critique of capitalist reality, and a critique of its political, ideological, and cultural representations. A creative Marxism must pursue the goal of enriching this critical thinking par excellence. It must not fear to integrate all reflection, in all areas, including those that have wrongly been considered “foreign” by the dogmas of past historical Marxisms. Seize the Crisis! Samir Amin >> http://monthlyreview.org/091201amin.php

  2. 2 barry

    While agreeing enthusiastically with the idea of ‘begin(ning) with Marx and not to stop(ping) with him — or Lenin or Mao — as conceived and practiced by the historical Marxisms of the previous century’ and of ‘render(ing) onto Marx that which is owed him: the intelligence to have begun critical thinking, a critique of capitalist reality, and a critique of its political, ideological, and cultural representations’, I none the less have a big problem with the idea that exponential growth leads to death. Rather, I think Marx understood that it leads to further change – death for the old social relations, yes – but constant change that human beings can determine through their actions.

    It would be a conservative and reactionary interpretation to suggest that Marx opposed growth in any field of human endeavour.

    We ain’t seen nuthin’ yet!

  3. 3 jim sharp

    b.y. sez: We ain’t seen nuthin’ yet!
    sounds a tad like nutter muttering to me!

  4. 4 jim sharp

    keza, You ask Who owns science ? & say nowt below when it seems so blatantly obvious when governments serves its master by handing out tax monies. So here’s a little clue!
    Scientists grow pork meat in a laboratory [for a sausage oligopoly (jim sharp)]
    The project, which is backed by a sausage manufacturer and has received £2m from the Dutch government, is seeking additional public funds to improve the technology.SCIENTISTS have grown meat in the laboratory for the first time. Experts in Holland used cells from a live pig to replicate growth in a petri dish.
    The advent of so-called “in-vitro” or cultured meat could reduce the billions of tons of greenhouse gases emitted each year by farm animals — if people are willing to eat it.

    So far the scientists have not tasted it, but they believe the breakthrough could lead to sausages and other processed products being made from laboratory meat in as little as five years’ time.
    The project, which is backed by a sausage manufacturer and has received £2m from the Dutch government, is seeking additional public funds to improve the technology.
    More>> http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/science/article6936352.ece

  5. 5 Dalec

    “I none the less have a big problem with the idea that exponential Marx understood exponential growth (and so did every scientifically literate person of his time.
    There has to be some limiting factor or exponential growth of any-thing will in a very short period of time or avery small number of iterations (a few hundred -say)come to fill the entire universe and crowd out every-thing else (death).
    It’s so basic Barry.

  6. 6 barry

    Dalec, If you re-read what I said, I reckon it leads to constant change. I think Marx relished change, reaching for the stars, and that was an initial appeal of his thinking for me. I know the basic maths of exponential growth, and I know it scares some people.

  7. 7 Dalec

    Exponential growth is all around us, sooner or later some factor intervenes and the growth stabilises. As well it does or we would now be living (?) on a planet that is entirely submerged in some bacteria or other.
    The important thing about change is the nature of the change and who (which class) benefits. Surely even the most supine lackey of capitalism would oppose a plan to sterilise all people of a certain skin colour or social class?
    It the present time we have serious state of crisis in our power generation and distribution system.
    Lergely this is the result of poor planning and the result of exponential growth in the load. Another factor is the failure to include “externalities”; such as the various kinds of pollution and resource depletion that accrue to power generation.
    Interestingly, the “market based” solutions do not work at all well for this problem.
    The “Global Warming” phenomena that gets some people all in a tizz will either be proved beyond doubt or disproved beyond doubt in due course.
    It so happens that the things we need to do to fix the Grid problems are largely the same things we need to do to ameliorate CO2 emissions.
    What I entirely fail to understand is why the denialists want us to continue to use an entirely 19th century model for power generation and distribution when we now have far more modern and efficient tools available.
    To deny the development and use of these tools is anti-modernist and totally reactionary. I can understand the position of the owners of the present plant, they do not wish to modernise and modernism costs money. Should “revolutionaries” follow their lead?
    There is no reason at all why we should not be using the power of the sun, for example, to power the entire world; think huge solar farms in the deserts around the equator linked together with large dc transmission systems to service the entire world. Entirely practical. Just as practical as millions of nuclear reactors with a finite fuel supply spread across the globe.
    Barry, Modernism costs money at the beginning. You once complained that the first electric vehicles in the modern age cost too much well the changes we need for our power supply will also cost a mint.

  8. 8 barry

    I quite like the idea of creating our own sun – fusion power. Thousands of years of amazing energy that could power every village and city in every corner of the world.

    Also: geo-engineering. Why shouldn’t humans work out ways of influencing climate, as well as adapting to it?

  9. 9 Dalec

    Ok Barry you can have your terrestrial fusion power if I can have my electric vehicles.
    Humans have been Geo-engineering the planet for millennia – with not so good results mostly, except perhaps for parts of the UK and Europe.
    To do it properly we would need to increase our knowledge of the environmental systems by orders of magnitude.

    I strongly suspect that terrestrial-fusion power is a scaling thing, works very well at the size of the sun but very difficult at a comparative scale with the sun that is not even measurable. This is such a 20th century idea – 60 years of research and no results yet.

    No point in doing it if you can construct energy gathering devices that are either terrestrial or in orbit. Beam the energy to earth, easy by comparison with terrestial fusion.

    There is also a vast geo-thermal resource generated fro the decay of Thorium (that should make Arthur happy)no emissions no fuel costs and abundant.

  10. 10 Bill Kerr

    Climate Science: Is it currently designed to answer questions? by Richard S. Lindzen (Nov 2008, pdf 36pp)

    As well as detail about significant distortions in the global warming debate this also includes some introductory remarks about the general pressures and distortion on science since the end of World War 2.

  11. 11 Arthur

    Lindzen science policy article is VERY interesting. I especially liked the introductory part on fundamental difference between the hard science dialectic between theory and observation on the one hand and the mushy substitution of studying models on the other (imported from economics pseudoscience).

    Not convinced by his suggestion to reduce “politicization” of science by cutting funding (so done by people more disinterested and under less pressure) or by his opposition to “Manhattan Project”. Strongly agree that “fear” drive from Cold War has been corrupting. Still think “Intellectual Property” is a key issue.

    Some unrelated quick notes below:

    1. Alarmists have got more and more alarmed since Kyoto since it is increasingly obvious that the emissions cuts they propose cannot be achieved.

    2, Hopenhagen will confirm that there is no possibility whatever of developing countries expected to produce most emissions retarding their development and no possibility of developed countries offering adequate incentives to do so.

    3. So we can expect greater alarm. Instead of being doomed within a century if we don’t act within a few years we will be doomed within a decade unless we dismantle industrial civilization within a year.

    4. The levels of hysteria have already got so ridiculous that support for alarmism has peaked and started to decline in the US. Increased hysteria is likely to accelerate that trend worldwide.

    5. That still leaves the problem of what to do about the actual
    non-alarming possibility that it may desirable to do something about potential long term consequences of gradual climate change (and depletion of fossil fuels etc which seems to be a hidden driver).

    6. Once the levels of hysteria have completely discredited the more rabid greenies and their “official science” it may be possible to start actual rational discussion of such matters.

    7. A good first step would be to propose complete withdrawal of ALL current funding devoted to promoting various forms of rent seeking such as “renewable energy requirements”, subsidies to “green entrepreneurs” and subsidies to alarmist propaganda. For added effect people who have installed ludicrous solar panels in expectation of being paid for feeding useless energy into the grid should be stuck with the consequences of their own gullibility along with the purchasers of “carbon credits” etc.

    8. Significant funds would then be available for fundamental research on alternative energy sources that could eventually displace coal and oil as a result of being cheaper. Instead of frittering away those funds on subsidies to renewables that remain more expensive than coal, they could be used to actually reduce the 50 year delay before commercial fusion power is currently expected to become feasible (with current minimal

    9. If climate alarmists were actually alarmed by prospective climate changes rather than alarmed by the inexorable growth of modern industry throughout the world, they would be clamouring for such R&D, at least as a “fall back” option since the planet is supposedly otherwise “doomed”.

    10. Governments that have irrationally and wastefully funded renewables with no prospect of ever being cheaper than coal cannot be trusted to allocate sufficient funds to real alternatives. Their faith in “market based mechanisms” and bureaucratic management is also a key obstacle to
    fundamental science. An approach more like the “Manhattan Project” that was completely unhindered by hopes of “Intellectual Property” has proved much more suitable for accelerating hard science.

    11. A side benefit of shifting all funding of greenies into funding of pure science would be the simultaneous undermining of their now vast apparatus for generating alarm and increase in the levels of hysteria that they would generate.

    12. Hopefully the threat of actual loss of rent seeking opportunities would result in a more rapid escalation so that the planet would become doomed within days if we do not restore their funding within seconds. At that point they should hopefully fade from the scene and enable a rational discussion.

    BTW My attention has been drawn to a scientific paper on the physical meaninglessness of “global temperature”:


    Unfortunately that argument (like the ignorant reference to “greenhouse effect” despite greenhouses relying on blocking convection rather than radiation) doesn’t refute the possible relevance of attempts to compare trends now with earlier trends. Despite non-existance of “global temperature” there must be something measurable about difference between Ice Age and warming etc.

  12. 12 Jayjee

    There really is no such reducible thing – “science” – to justify and argument who might “it”. Those who mince about the place declaring “the science” to be the superior unassailable truth are no different from the sorcerers, astrologists, and theologians of yore.

  13. 13 Bill Kerr

    Scientists have genetically engineered bacteria to directly convert carbon dioxide to a gasoline substitute (isobutanol) and other useful chemicals using photosynthesis

    They claim this is more efficient than currently existing methods of recycling CO2 and producing biofuels

    The article from Nature Biotechnology is available online: Direct photosynthetic recycling of carbon dioxide to isobutyraldehyde

  14. 14 Dalec

    Thanks Bill,
    Your post exactly supports my thesis that the perception of climate change is a major driver for the develoment of new technologies:
    First sentence.
    “Global climate change has stimulated efforts to reduce CO2 emissions. One approach to addressing this problem is to recycle CO2 directly into fuels or chemicals using photosynthesis. ”
    Meantime you guys deny any possiblity of change except to wish for nuclear fusion – some-day.

  15. 15 Bill Kerr

    A Deluge of Data Shapes a New Era in Computing
    Interesting review of a new Microsoft (unfortunately) book about how floods of data (exadata) are allegedly creating a fourth scientific paradigm (on top of the existing alleged three of experimental, theoretical and, more recently, computational science)

    MS: “I’ve gotta share my data” (but not my source code)

    Despite my MS negativity and doubts about this framing of science the above article is well worth reading for discussion

    Walter Bender of Sugar comments :

    Alas, there is no mention of Free Software in the article. It is not clear to me how a proprietary system would solve any of the problems Gray is describing. Sigh.

  16. 16 Bill Kerr

    Pielke snr has a guest post from david schultz about attempts to improve the peer review process

    Pielke snr is a highly regarded climate scientist who has documented problems with the peer review process:

    Schultz says that Pielke’s suggestion to relax guidelines won’t work because the original authors are not good at improving papers that are flawed. He also has a crack at Nature etc. for their “self-inflated sense of prestige”

    I followed the links to schultz’s electronic journal and downloaded a pdf containing a paper written by schultz about how to write good journal articles. The reviewers comments are not anonymous and are included at the end of the article

    This more open peer review process may be the way to go. Schultz’s electronic journal has been around for 4 years. It’s based on open access journal software: http://pkp.sfu.ca/?q=ojs

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