The current major media stories quote people who say something like “transparency is generally good, but not here.” We all know that EPA does health studies but we also know they do much other regulating as well. Say climate, or biomass or …. So I would like to know, given that feedback, what if the EPA just used it for the non-health studies? Is there a way to review the health studies’ calculations without going to the level of personal data? The standard newspaper stories seem to be “good people hate this proposed rule, only bad people (“climate deniers,” industry) support it.” That is really not all that helpful in terms of a news story for us folks that are trying to understand the pros and cons.
Here’s one story from the Scientific American:
Smith said.. Many in the scientific community agree that increased access to data is essential for reproducibility and objective analysis,” he said. “Open access to scientific data fosters good policymaking. The American people have a right to understand how and why regulatory decisions are made.”
In a House office building last week, Smith feted a group of researchers from the National Association of Scholars who routinely attack climate science and who say in a new report that there is a “crisis” in science because too much of it cannot be reproduced. The authors of its new report, titled “The Irreproducibility Crisis of Modern Science,” say government agencies should establish review commissions to determine which existing regulations are based on reproducible research and to rescind those that are not, a process that could affect key provisions of the Clean Air Act, among other regulations.
For those of you who don’t follow science biz studies (the social science of observing the science biz), here’s a link to a piece by Andrea Saltelli on “Science’s credibility crisis” that gives some background of some of the issues across disciplines. This paper has many interesting links.
Ravetz emphasises the loss of this essential ethical element. In later works he notes that the new social and ethical conditions of science are reflected in a set of “emerging contradictions”. These concern the cognitive dissonance between the official image of science as enlightened, egalitarian, protective and virtuous, against the current realities of scientific dogmatism, elitism and corruption; of science serving corporate interests and practices; of science used as an ersatz religion.
Echoes of Ravetz’s analysis can be found in many recent works, such as on the commodification of science, or on the present problems with trust in expertise.
Ioannidis and co-authors are careful to stress the importance of a multidisciplinary approach, as both troubles and solutions may spill over from one discipline to the other. This would perhaps be a call to the arms for social scientists in general – and for those who study science itself – to tackle the crisis as a priority.
Here we clash with another of science’s contradictions: at this point in time, to study science as a scholar would mean to criticise its mainstream image and role. We do not see this happening any time soon. Because of the scars of “science wars” – whose spectre is periodically resuscitated – social scientists are wary of being seen as attacking science, or worse helping US President Donald Trump.
I think this would be a good time for social scientists who study science (the science and technology studies or STS community) to step up, dare to be labelled as denialist or Trump supporters and say “we resist the use of science as tool of partisan warfare”. Perhaps something along these lines “From our perspective, based on decades of study of the scientific processes and regulatory science in particular, we think regulatory science might be helped by open data in these situations.. but not these.. and would instead suggest …”.