, Volume 8, Issue 3, pp 397-399

The continuing need for disinterested research

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Abstract

For scientific knowledge to be trustworthy, it needs to be dissociated from material interests. Disinterested research also performs other important non-instrumental roles. In particular, academic science has traditionally provided society with reliable, imaginative public knowledge and independent, self-critical expertise. But this type of science is not compatible with the practice of instrumental research, which is typically proprietary, prosaic, pragmatic and partisan. With ever-increasing dependence on commercial or state funding, all modes of knowledge production are merging into a new, ‘post-academic’ research culture which is dominated by utilitarian goals. Growing concern about conflicts of interest is thus a symptom of deep-seated malaise in science and medicine.

An expanded version of this paper was presented at an International Conference on “Conflict of Interest and its Significance in Science and Medicine” held in Warsaw, Poland on 5–6 April, 2002.