[Coral-List] Science Governance

Patricia Warner p.warner1859 at gmail.com
Tue Jan 10 14:30:27 EST 2012

Dear Milton,

I am not yet a professional scientist, but as one in training there seems
to be quite clear guidelines for what constitutes good science, and most
scientists are more or less aware of them.  At least, my understanding is
that being able to critically evaluate science is one of the major
justifications for our studies.  Of course, these somewhat silent
regulations are only as useful as the scientists who choose to practice
them and/ or uphold them through the peer-review system.  It is not a
perfect arrangement.  It can be abused, neglected and manipulated,
corrupted just as any human institution.  And, while the web has rapidly
increased the amount and dissemination of information, we cannot control
whether that information is good or bad, accurate or not.  We cannot
control who accesses what information, or how they use it.  Yet, at the
same time, it gives me some hope that the same medium allows for
constructive communication and discussions through blogs and listservs such
as this.  The major problem is not that we lack a framework for recognizing
good and bad science, but that there is so much science being generated now
that is impossible for any one person to critically evaluate it or even
read it all.  Moreover, instead of a single "governing" body with universal
authority to decide what is good or bad, we have a diverse and widespread
network of journals, academic institutions, and other research institutions
that spread the responsibility and balance the risk of entrusting truth to
any one source.

At the same time, it seems to me that the most egregious corruption of
science comes not from scientists themselves, but from the media whom you
mentioned in your post.  At least in the US, many media providers continue
to misreport facts and twist science in ways that we have absolutely no
control over.  Although so many look to them for accurate reporting of the
truth, misguided as they may be, the media are not upheld to any standard
of truth that I can understand.  There is no obligate fact-checking or
regulation of what they report, all under the auspices of the 1st Amendment
to the Constitution of the United States, and it seems that even lies are
protected by the ideal of free speech.  Some of this reporting that seems
so inaccurate to scientists may be basically harmless modifications to
translate science into a more public-friendly format, e.g. as discussed in
recent "60 Minutes" posts.  And, we have to make some concessions if we
have any desire to communicate effectively to the public.  On the other
hand, there are many more sinister instances of direct misinformation and/
or inflating or inventing controversies that should not be acceptable to us
as scientists, to a responsible and reliable media, and especially to the



From: RainbowWarriorsInternational <southern_caribbean at yahoo.com>
To: Ulf Erlingsson <ceo at lindorm.com>, Steve Mussman <sealab at earthlink.net>,
Coral Listserver Listserver <coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov>
Cc: Eugene Shinn <eshinn at marine.usf.edu>
Date: Tue, 10 Jan 2012 07:27:20 -0800 (PST)
Subject: Re: [Coral-List] Don't be such a scientist
This year at the Rio plus 20 conference (
http://www.uncsd2012.org/rio20/index.html) important issues need to be
addressed, and in particular we need to look back at the twenty years that
have passed and determine what progress has been made.

In the last twenty years the theme of "governance" has popped up in
virtually every human endeavor and in varying ways set standards, rules and
regulation for detecting and correcting substandard performance, and
policing bad procedures and practices.

I find it conspicuously lacking though in the scientific realm.

It would be fairly simple to come up with the ground rules of what
constitutes good science and then explain in simple layman's terms how to
check for it.

In the end good science is all about about the truth as perceived by the
eyes of the beholder, often times the press.

Governance for science like governance for good government is all about
frameworks of reference that make sense and are indisputable.

Once these are in place, even detecting and pointing out bad/biased
reporters becomes a simpler task.

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