Restoring Respect for Science

We simply must do more to restore respect for science! We can.

Sheila Jasanoff, Professor of Science and Technology Studies at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, wrote about “restoring respect for science” and “The Essential Parallel Between Science and Democracy:” http://seedmagazine.com/content/article/the_essential_parallel_between_science_and_democracy/P2/.

The American Association for the Advancement of Science is raising funds for “Respecting the Input of Science” “to highlight the importance of scientific evidence in decision-making and to deepen the connections among scientists, policy makers, and the public at every level:” https://www.supportaaas.org/restore.

What more can we do now to restore respect for science? 

“Measurement is an integral part of modern science as well as of engineering, commerce, and daily life” (http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/measurement-science/). To what extent can a proffered breakthrough in measurement science help restore respect for science?

Many people tacitly acknowledge respect for physics and chemistry when they use smart phones, computers, and plastics. For me, respect for the precision and power of science was exemplified when the Rosetta mission soft-landed its Philae probe on a comet: http://www.esa.int/Our_Activities/Space_Science/Rosetta/Touchdown!_Rosetta_s_Philae_probe_lands_on_comet.

Scientists express more respect for chemistry and physics compared to other sciences when they attempt to reduce medicine to molecular medicine.

What can we do to increase respect for biology, psychology, social sciences, economics, environmental science, and other sciences of Complex Adaptive Systems? To what extent might a breakthrough in measurement science help make “soft” science “hard”?

Might the answer be as simple as computing values of new measures needed to understand Complex Adaptive Systems scientifically as introduced at http://www.dataspeaks.com? This includes benefit and harm scores for evaluative investigations such as clinical trials.

Consider how this could play out. Here are three examples from three different fields.

1) The pharmaceutical industry has descended to become an object of political attacks. Drug safety problems run rampant. Drug costs are soaring. About 90% of drug research and development costs never end up as marketed products – a huge waste. Stakeholders are concerned. However, the current drug development and regulatory regime continues to evaluate safety and efficacy (effectiveness) without actually measuring benefit and harm of treatment. Computing benefit and harm scores often is technically feasible. To what extend might actual measurement of benefit and harm help restore respect for science and the pharmaceutical industry? 

2) Conservatives and progressives offer radically different approaches to economic growth and jobs. Each side has its own economists. Many people favor ideology over economic evidence.

Economies and their environments have many interacting parts. To what extend might actual measurement of the Interactions-over-Time that describe and help predict how economies work help restore respect for economics and science?

3) Anthropomorphic global warming has believers and skeptics. Climate models with many interacting parts have strengths and limitations. The Science of Individuality Measurement Algorithm (SIMA) makes it feasible to actually measure the Interactions-over-Time BEFORE modeling. To what extent might new measures help restore respect climate science?

Shouldn’t we at least try new opportunities to improve productivity and restore respect for science?