A loss of discernment

Increasingly I get the feeling that foundations supporting scientific research are overly aligned by the insidious “you are either with us against us” rhetoric of academic scientists, particularly those who want to trade the aloof ivory tower for the sandbox of science policy. Philanthropy should be reluctant to yield its ‘third sector’ identity – meaning it is not government and it is not business. Even in support for scientific research – philanthropy’s value, considering its relatively small size – lies in its independent system of decision making. It has become unfashionable to question science. Any criticism is interpreted as giving to solace to the enemy – a term that in a rather circular kind of argument seems to apply to anyone who questions science. The undertone is, of course that only the far right fringe has a problem with science. Overall, defensiveness is not good for science – particularly when the issues intersect with social values, social norms, and in many cases the health, education, and self-understanding of all of us. it is time for researchers and third sector funders to have honest, sophisticated conversations on why it is that problems do or do not yield to our current knowledge. Everything should be on the table and open to scrutiny.