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Why “Who Owns Science?”

Evolution i s a mythThe focus of this issue — ‘Who Owns Science?’ — may puzzle some readers. “How can anyone own science?” you might ask. “It is a process of establishing truth and a way of looking at the world.”

Yes, it is those things for sure, but it is also a very valuable brand for those who can control it. Science has largely replaced religion as a source of reliable knowledge for most people, and if you can represent your idea, your product, your investment scheme as based in science, you have an automatic advantage over your competitors. To the extent that you can discredit those competitors as ‘unscientific’ then you can dismiss their ideas and products without even directly addressing them.

Readers of this journal are familiar with watching that happen regarding the process of genetic engineering. Monsanto and its corporate agents not only said their glyphosate-resistance technology epitomized science and progress, they went further and actively discredited legitimate scientists who questioned their assertions and wondered about some of the health impacts and other potential negatives concerning GMOs.

But the same process of trying to monopolize science and deny doubters any credibility is rife within other industries, not just agricultural biotech. Lobbyists for the pharmaceuticals have the same tendency to dismiss critics, especially when it comes to anyone questioning the efficacy or safety of vaccines. Certainly the science behind their candidate’s support for various methods of controlling the COVID outbreak was fundamental to the two presidential campaigns just ended.

In this issue we explore efforts to claim “ownership” of science in this way, and show how such claims (and efforts to censor alternative points of view) can have destructive effects on legitimate efforts to establish truth. We also include an example of a campaign based in open-source science, showing how that can be done. It is our hope to leave readers with a reluctance to accept any claim that a view represents “settled science”, understanding that science itself is forever growing and incorporating more knowledge.