New Books from Hoover Press Politicizing Science: The Alchemy of Policymaking Edited by Michael Gough

Monday, July 7, 2003

Politics and science make strange bedfellows. In politics, perceptions are reality and facts are negotiable. The competing interests, conflicting objectives, and trade-offs of political negotiations often lend themselves to bending the truth and selectively interpreting facts to shape outcomes. In science, facts are reality. Politicizing Science: The Alchemy of Policymaking (Hoover Institution Press, 2003) examines the conflicts that arise when politics and science converge.

In this collection, eleven leading scientists describe the politicization of scientific findings and deliberations to advance policy agendas. They show how the consequences of politicization are inflicted on the public, including the diversion of money and research efforts from worthwhile scientific endeavors, the costs of unnecessary regulations, and the losses of useful products-while increased power and prestige flow to those who manipulate science.

The essays in Politicizing Science

  • Describe government diversions of scientific research and the interpretation of scientific findings away from where the evidence leads and toward directions deemed politically desirable

  • Analyze the expensive and extensive efforts devoted to altering images of risk in order to establish linkages in the public's mind between deleterious human health effects and various areas of scientific research

  • Examine consensus advisory panels, concluding that their recommendations are often driven by social and political dynamics that substitute group cohesion in favor of independent, critical thinking.

  • Describe the unfortunate results of application of the "precautionary principle," which generally requires proof of no risk before a new product is introduced or an existing product can be continued in use

  • Describe the personal costs of opposing the politicization of science

Editor: Michael Gough, a biologist, has participated in science policy issues at the congressional Office of Technology Assessment, in Washington think tanks, and on various advisory panels.

Contributors: Bruce Ames, Roger Bate, Bernard L. Cohen, Lois Swirsky Gold, William Happer, Joseph P. Martino, Patrick J. Michaels, Henry I. Miller, Robert Nilsson, Stephen Safe, S. Fred Singer

The Hoover Institution, founded at Stanford University in 1919 by Herbert Hoover, who went on to become the 31st president of the United States, is an interdisciplinary research center for advanced study on domestic public policy and international affairs, with an internationally renowned archives.