, Volume 25, Issue 3, pp 295-331

Science and social responsibility

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Abstract

Science in the aggregate has not lived up to its promise to work for the benefit of society as a whole. This problem stems from the narrow perspectives that basic and applied researchers typically take to their work. Among the barriers to broadening those perspectives, the most tractable is the myth that the overriding purpose of science in human affairs is prediction; that such predictions are prerequisites for major policy decisions; and that scientific inputs to these decisions are objective and value-free. This article challenges the myth from three standpoints - epistemology, the historical context, and contemporary case studies - as a step toward improving the responsibility and accountability of science to society.

An earlier version of this paper was presented at the Symposium on ‘New Paradigms for Managing Post-Industrial Societies’ at the meetings of the International Society for the Systems Sciences, Denver, Colorado, July 14, 1992.