I hope the executive branch’s "war on science" era ends in January. Heading into a period of climate change, tight fossil energy supplies, growing trouble with food-borne illnesses, declining health metrics, etc, we clearly don’t need a bunch of creationists and climate-change deniers knocking about the White House.
At the same time, I hope we don’t swing in the direction of a hyper-corporate vision of science: the idea that big problems demand big solutions — the kind conveniently offered by really big companies.
Well, Wired recently got the Obama campaign to reveal its five main science advisors. Unhappily, two of them have ties to the biotech industry: Sharon Long, Monsanto board of directors, 2002-2007; and Gilbert Omenn, Amgen director, 1987 present. Actually, Omenn has a list of corporate ties as long as your arm; for example, he also serves on the board of industrial-chemical concern Rohm and Haas.
By all means, listen to the corporate perspective: If the world is to feed itself, Monsanto must operate within a lax regulatory framework — while also relying on draconian intellectual-property protection. Or, to stay healthy, the public needs a steady supply of novel, rapidly FDA-approved pharmaceuticals from the likes of Amgen.
Fine. But where are the ecologists? Where are the scientists don’t see the world as a discrete, independent set of problems ready to be solved by corporate-led science? Where are the scientists who believe in the precautionary principle?
I realize that in the academy, government science funding has withered and corporate cash has filled the vacuum. At this point, if you want to study science, you almost have to play ball. In a sense, "science" really does mean "corporate science."
But Obama could still do better. I suggest he scroll through the board of the Union of Concerned Scientists to look for advisors who can balance the Monsanto/Amgen types.