Policy Sciences

, Volume 25, Issue 3, pp 295-331

Science and social responsibility

  • Ronald D. BrunnerAffiliated withCenter for Public Policy Research, University of Colorado
  • , William AscherAffiliated withSanford Institute of Public Policy, Duke University

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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.