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Date: Fri, 16 Mar 2001 21:55:35 -0000
From: Loka@Loka.org 
To: loka-alert@yahoogroups.com

Loka Alert 8:2 (March 16, 2001)


By Jill Chopyak

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

This is one in an occasional series on the democratic politics of research, science, and technology issued free of charge by the nonprofit Loka Institute. TO BE ADDED TO THE LOKA ALERT E-MAIL LIST, or to reply to this post, please send a message to <Loka@Loka.org>. TO BE REMOVED from the Loka Alert E-mail list, send an E-mail with no subject or message text to <loka-alert-unsubscribe@egroups.com>. (If that fails, just notify us at <Loka@Loka.org>). IF YOU ENJOY LOKA ALERTS, PLEASE INVITED INTERESTED FRIENDS & COLLEAGUES TO SUBSCRIBE. Thanks!

In a new century – with a new White House Administration – this Loka Alert renews and reinvigorates Loka's commitment to work for a democratic politics of science and technology. It calls for support from all our constituents to work with us in developing a new science and technology framework – one that includes the voices of those most affected by science and technology decisions and developments. Please send your responses, comments, and ideas to Loka@Loka.org . We look forward to hearing from you!

Cheers to all,

Jill Chopyak
Executive Director

The Loka Institute
P.O. Box 355, Amherst, MA 01004, USA
E-mail <Loka@Loka.org> Web <http://www.loka.org>
Tel. 413-559-5860; Fax 413-559-5811



(I) U.S. SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY POLICY: A NEW CENTURY, A NEW FRAMEWORK...............................................(8 pages)

(II) LOKA INSTITUTE UPDATES..................................(1 page)


(IV) INTERNSHIPS AT THE LOKA INSTITUTE....................(1/3 page)

(V) ABOUT THE LOKA INSTITUTE..............................(1/3 page)

March 16, 2001
Loka Alert 8:2

U. S. Science and Technology Policy: A New Century, A New Framework 
By Jill Chopyak


In his recent book, Life is a Miracle: An Essay Against Modern  Superstition, Wendell Berry rallies against science and technology  advocates who believe that strict scientific inquiry will, in the  future, enable us to discover the meaning of life – logically and rationally. He cautions that believing we have the ability to discover the "facts" behind the mystery of life will be our downfall: "We can give up on life by presuming to understand it...To reduce life to the scope of our understanding is to enslave it, make property of it, put it up for sale...to carry it beyond change and redemption, and to increase the proximity of despair." (1)

The recent mapping of the human genome – and reactions to it – exemplify the threat that Berry speaks of. The February 16, 2001 issue of _Science_ magazine was dedicated entirely to the human genome project. The significant achievement of scientists worldwide who have been working to unravel the mystery of our genetic makeup for decades should be applauded. However, just as a map of the world shows only geographic boundaries and none of the complex social, political and cultural relationships between nations, a map of the human genome cannot possibly explain the complex relationship between biology, society, culture and chemical makeup – all brought together in a mysterious way that make us human. Berry's critique is one that stresses the need for humility – to accept that there are things we will never know. However, the current scientific and technological view is that if we try hard enough, we will discover the meaning of life. 

Science editors Barbara Jasny and Donald Kennedy state: "Humanity has been given a great gift. With the completion of the human genome sequence, we have received a powerful tool for unlocking the secrets of our genetic heritage and for finding our place among the other participants in the adventure of life." (2) The mapping of the human genome has tremendous potential to combat disease and provide new information about human evolution. Yet, it also has incredible social, political, cultural and philosophical implications that have not been thoroughly discussed or evaluated. For example, the ability to predict genetically transmitted diseases could easily cause a "genetic hypochodria", with individuals waiting anxiously for a disease that may or may not come. Issues around insurance coverage in the U.S. for pre-determined genetic diseases are already at issue. Discovering the genetic details that makes us different from our neighbors – or other species – will have a profound impact on how we view ourselves and our humanity, which will, in turn, raise important and complex ethical, spiritual and philosophical questions. 

The impact of the mapping of the human genome on all aspects of our lives is significant. Yet, there has been little public discussion or debate about such issues prior to – or during – its discovery. In 1995, the U.S. National Institutes of Health and the Department of Energy-sponsored Working Group on Ethical, Legal and Social Implications of Human Genome Research organized a Task Force on Genetic Testing to review genetic testing in the U.S. The Task Force was mandated to make recommendations to the larger Working Group that focuses on ensuring the development of safe and effective genetic tests. Of the 15 voting members of the Task Force, only one represented a public-interest perspective. 

The lack of public involvement in science and technology decision-making is not isolated to the genetics field. Science and technology policy in the U.S. to date has not addressed the need for citizen involvement in science and technology decision-making. At the recent Annual Meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in San Francisco, California, there was a symposium entitled, "Science Policy: The Next 50 Years." The panel of speakers included individuals from government, university administration, and business. Discussion focused on new modes of collaboration between these stakeholders and almost completely ignored issues of citizen concern, societal impact of science and technology, or how these issues will affect future policy decisions.

At the same time, recent scares in Europe (mad cow, hoof and mouth), controversies over biotechnology in Europe and the U.S., and movies such as "Gattaca" and "The 6th Day" demonstrate that developments in science and technology – and their affects on our lives – are of concern to citizens worldwide. And increasingly, citizens no longer are appeased by a "Trust Us, We're Experts" (3) mentality. Science and technology policy is one of the most significant areas of today's decision-making realm. There is a need for a new mode of decision-making – one that incorporates citizen involvement and public interest concerns, and examines the social, political, environmental and cultural issues involved in research, and scientific and technological developments.


Science and technology policy in the United States since the Second World War has included three predominate players: industry, Federal government, and universities/established research institutions. Each of these players have held a particular role in setting U.S. science and technology policy agenda to the mutual benefit of all three. 

Over the past fifty years, the primary role of the U.S. government in science and technology has been that of funding research and development (R&D). From 1953 – 1978, the U.S. government funded 50-60% of total R&D funding in the U.S. Half of this has consistently been spent on defense-related areas. This funding went to academic researchers in universities and federally-sponsored research institutions, and to public and private laboratories that furthered broad Federal objectives, such as military security. Occasionally, developments from this research had a commercial use, and were used and marketed for profit, but this was not the norm. During this period, science and technology was controlled and developed by experts, who would transfer this information and results to the public as needed. Public involvement in the process was not considered, except as a consumer of the commercial innovations resulting within industry. (4)

After 1978, commercial R&D funding began to supersede the federal government, making the market and private sector the drivers of scientific and technological developments. This trend has continued to the present day. Currently, industry R&D spending is two to three times the amount of Federal spending. This shift has changed the relationship between universities, Federal funding institutions, and industry. University research funded by industry (rather than government) has increased over the past decade and continues to rise. This has implications for research ethics, accountability, and conflicts of interest. However, such issues do not seem to be of concern to today's policymakers. A recent opinion piece in The Economist, entitled "Science and Profit" discusses the connection between research and the global economy: "Far from compromising science, profit...has animated it, and directed it towards meeting pressing human needs. It is a happy marriage." (5) The question that remains, however, is whose pressing human needs this "happy marriage" will more effectively address.

Although U.S. President Bush has not spoken extensively on his vision for U.S. Science and Technology Policy (in fact, he has yet to name a Director for the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy), his recent Federal budget proposal gives an idea of where U.S. R&D funding will be focused. The budget includes a 4.8 % increase in R&D at the Department of Defense (DOD), and slight declines or maintenance of other federal agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Energy and the National Science Foundation. The National Institute of Health (NIH) is projecting at 13% increase in federal funding, continuing a trend begun in 1998, and a focus on research in the biomedical field. (6) None of the budget outlays reflect the need to examine how science and technology interfaces with society. A pressing issue as we use the map of the human genome, advance in nanotechnology research, and spend resources to hook up every classroom to the Internet.

The European Union (EU) is far ahead of the U.S. in their efforts to address the interface between science and society. A recent Working Document by the European Commission addresses this issue explicitly: "Modern science has developed on the basis of an unspoken `contract' between science and the institutions taking responsibility for it (universities, industry, governments), on the one hand, and society and the public, on the other. New relationships are needed that fit the new mould of science, technology and society...There is a need to...create an open dialogue between researchers, industrialists, policy-makers, interest groups and the public as a whole." (7)

As part of this effort, the EU recently funded a project to establish an international network of science shops/community research centers –institutions and organizations that conduct community-based research in the public interest. Community-based research is research that is conducted by, with or for the community. ("Community" in this context is defined as a group of people with like-minded interests, and can expand beyond geographical boundaries.) The SCIPAS (Study and Conference for Improving Public Access to Science) project brought together nine partners from the Netherlands, Denmark, Israel, South Africa, Germany, Romania, the U.S., Austria and Ireland. Funded under the EU's Fifth Framework Programme, the SCIPAS project conducted research and analysis on trends in community-based research/science shop activities, and established the initial framework for an international network. The project consortium sponsored a conference: "Living Knowledge: Bridging Public Access to Research," in Belgium, January 25-27, 2001, that brought together approximately 120 interested individuals from 20 countries. Results from research projects were presented, and discussion included resources and projects for an international network.

Mike Rogers from the European Commission's Research Directorate General summed the project up in this way: "Living Knowledge is not just about the dynamics of the most valuable asset a society produces and that it flows to society as well as to industry; it is also about the knowledge for living the kind of life society has the right to shape for itself, in the context of to-day's complex world." (8)


There are many examples in the U.S., Europe and the rest of the world where citizen participation in research, science and technology decisions have had a positive impact on the policy making process at the local or national level.

For example, residents in the Northern section of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (USA) participated in collecting information about lead-poisoning awareness in their neighborhood. North Philadelphia is one of the city's highest risk areas for lead poisoning, because of the lead dust produced by lead-based paint in and on the area's old and deteriorating housing. Forty-five percent of children in Philadelphia tested are estimated to suffer from some degree of exposure to lead. And because many families in the area do not have sufficient access to health care, children are being treated only on a crisis basis and miss recommended health and development screenings. Because tenant council presidents of neighborhood apartments were part of the research team, they were able to reach a broader study sample, as well as design an effective implementation strategy that included block parties, after school and camp programs, and cultural activities such as puppet shows and music shows that raised the awareness of neighborhood residents of the prevalence of lead in their homes. This has resulted in a 27% increase in numbers of children tested for lead and a 10% reduction in children with dangerous lead levels.

In Denmark, the Danish Board of Technology has demonstrated how dialoguing with citizens about science and technology issues has resulted in better decisions. Their consensus conference process allows citizens to make policy recommendations about specific scientific or technological developments, and those recommendations are then included in the process by which the Danish Parliament makes its decisions. Consensus conferences in Denmark have taken place on topics such as gene therapy, traffic issues, and telecommuting. The process has also been exported to 13 other countries, including South Korea, the United Kingdom, Australia and Israel. (9)

There are other ways in which the public can be involved in research, science and technology decision-making. The Precautionary Principle is an idea that has been gaining recognition over the past ten years. In January 1998, a group of U.S. activists and scientists gathered together to discuss the principle of precaution, and came up with the "Wingspread Statement" on the Precautionary Principle: "When an activity raises threats of harm to human health or the 
environment, precautionary measures should be taken even if some cause and effect relationships are not fully established scientifically. In this context the proponent of an activity, rather than the public, should bear the burden of proof...The process of applying the Precautionary Principle must be open, informed and democratic and must include potentially affected parties. It must also involve an examination of the full range of alternatives, including no action." (10)

The Principle itself calls for citizen participation (those potentially affected) in the decision-making process. Applying the Principle to issues such as human genetic testing for example, would force us to examine alternatives to such testing. Increasing the range of options that such discoveries entail fosters greater innovation and creativity in the scientific process, leading to better scientific decisions.


We are in a time of tremendous change. The global nature of the economy, the process of gathering and using information, the nature of partnerships, and our societal and cultural frameworks are shifting. Decision-making processes have become more dynamic, and traditional stakeholders are being replaced by unique and strategic collaborations. Yet, our intellectual and creative energy is falling short in finding effective solutions to society's current challenges.

The traditional model of scientific and technological development is one that separates experts from the society in which they work. Scientific and technical knowledge and information – and access to it – has the power to transform our communities and world. As the European community is demonstrating, there is a growing recognition that such knowledge resources are no longer held solely in universities and research institutions. The valuable assets of our globe – cultural knowledge, community-based information, and creative, human energy – are being accessed and shared. This new mode of collaborative problem-solving and knowledge creation has the power to bring the resources of experts and citizens into a mutual exchange aimed at addressing society's challenges.

In order to realize a vision of a world in which scientific and technological developments are determined by democratic processes, and are focused on societal and cultural needs rather than solely economic ones, we need to bring the rich resources of our globe together to solve the pressing issues we face. We need to work together to provide communities with access to the information and resources they need to solve the problems they are facing. And we need to provide communities with the opportunity to articulate the type of future they desire, and ensure that they are involved in making that future a reality.

Since 1987, the Loka Institute has been working to make research, science and technology more responsive to democratically-decided social and environmental concerns. With new organizational leadership, Loka is renewing its commitment to the above vision, by focusing on the following areas:

  • Critical assessments: evaluation of science and technology policies and decision-making processes; evaluation of citizen participation and the social and environmental impact of science and technology policies at all levels.
  • Education: build citizen and community capacity to have an effective voice in decision-making processes at the local, regional, national and international levels.
  • Dissemination and advocacy: create avenues for citizen participation in research, science and technology processes and policies.

Science and technology is driving the way we live our lives. As human beings, we have a basic right to decide the kind of future we want. That ability to choose – and to act on our choice – is part of the miracle Wendell Berry speaks of when he quotes Shakespeare's King 
, "Thy life's a miracle. Speak yet again."


  1. Berry, Wendell. (2000). Life is a Miracle: An Essay Against Modern Superstition. Washington, D.C.: Counterpoint Press.
  2. Science, February 16, 2001. Vol. 291, No. 5507
  3. Rampton, Sheldon and John Stauber. (2001). Trust Us, We're Experts. New York: Penguin Putnam.
  4. Hart D. M. (1997) Forced Consensus: Science, Technology, and Economic Policy in the United States, 1921-1953. Trenton: Princeton University Press.
  5. "Science and Profit." The Economist. February 15, 2001. <http://www.economist.com/displayStory.cfm?Story_ID=P7324>
  6. FY 2002 Budget. <http://www.aaas.org/spp/dspp/rd/fy02.htm.>
  7. Commission of European Communities. "Commission Working Document: Science, Society and the Citizen in Europe." Brussels, 14.11.2000. SEC (2000-1973).
  8. For more information about the SCIPAS consortium and project, see <http://www.bio.uu.nl/living-knowledge/.>
  9. For a comprehensive list of consensus conferences around the world, see <http://www.loka.org/pages/worldpanels.htm.>
  10. Montague, Peter. "The Precautionary Principle." Rachel's Environment and Health Weekly, #586. <http://www.sdearthtimes.com/et0398/et0398s4.html>



* The Fourth Annual Community Research Network (CRN) Conference will take place July 6-8, 2001 at the University of Texas, in Austin, TX. Check our website www.Loka.org soon for conference details and registration information.

* Conference to Build an International Network: Loka participated in the international conference, "Living Knowledge: Building Partnerships for Public Access to Research," which took place January 25-27, 2001. The conference was hosted by the SCIPAS consortium (Study and Conference for Improving Access to Science), a group of nine organizations from the Netherlands, Denmark, Northern Ireland, Germany, the U.S. (Loka), Austria, South Africa, Romania and Israel. the SCIPAS project, funded under the European Union's Fifth Framework 
Programme, aims to build the initial framework for the establishment of an international network of science shops/community research centers. 

The conference brought together over 120 participants from 20 different countries. Several participants are members of the Community Research Network: Marlene Berg and Robert Rooks from the Institute for Community Research http://www.incommunityresearch.com/  Thomas MacCalla and Jacque Caesar from National University, and Loka Board members Larry Wilson, Peter Levesque and Shirley Jones. Loka Founder, Richard Sclove also participated. Conference details and full agenda can be found at http://www.bio.uu.nl/living-knowledge/

* Community-Based Research Guidelines Manual: Loka is collaborating with the Lllano Grande Center for Research and Development to develop a manual on guidelines for community-based research. The Manual's outline was developed last year at a meeting in Washington, DC. The manual will be collaboratively written, and will be available at the end of the summer 2001.

* Web site updates: Loka has recently made several changes and additions to its web site. There is now a section with the latest articles on science and technology that is updated on a daily basis and is a great resource. We have also instituted a "Link of the Month", which will highlight an interesting link related to science, technology and democracy. This month's link is the Institute for Community Research, a community-based research center in Hartford, CT. For other Loka news and updates about our activities, check out www.loka.org.


As you file your taxes this year, think about how your money can be spent to help Loka in our activities to democratize research, science and technology. We have recently launched an ADOPT AN INTERN and SPONSOR A CRN SCHOLARSHIP campaign. 

**Loka's internship program is an important part of our efforts to educate a new generation about the need for a democratic politics of science and technology. Interning at Loka is a valuable learning experience; a real-life experience where students develop different skills then in a classroom. "My experience as an intern at the Loka Institute gave real-life experience working in the non-profit sector. I was amazed at how theory was put into action at Loka, and the experience has inspired me to find my niche in non-profit work and to contribute to society as much as Loka has." (Grace Pifer, former Loka intern)

**The 4th Annual Community Research Network Conference is coming up July 6-8 in Austin, TX. This national conference will bring together hundreds of community researchers—citizens, activists, and academics—from across the country to discuss, network and listen to fellow researchers. We need your help to finance scholarships for low-income participants. Last year's conference brought together over 275 participants from 11 different countries. The Loka Institute was able to provide 80 scholarships to low-income grassroots participants. We hope to provide more scholarships this year. 

Please consider a donation to our Adopt-an-Intern and CRN Scholarship campaign. Donating to Loka on line is now easy through the assistance of Helping.org. Just go to http://www.loka.org/pages/help.htm and click on the "Donate Now" button. Or Send a check or money order to The Loka Institute, P.O. Box 355, Amherst, MA 01004. Let us know which program you would like to support. Every contribution is vital to our ability to successfully implement our activities. Thank you for your donation!


The Loka Institute has openings for volunteers, graduate and undergraduate student interns, and work-study students.

Interns' responsibilities include updating our Web page; managing email lists and listservs; conducting background research on issues concerning science, technology, and society; and helping with administrative work. Interns committing to a semester or more will have the opportunity to integrate independent research into theirinternship experience.

Candidates should be self-motivated and able to work as part of a team as well as independently. A general knowledge and comfort with computers is needed. Experience in Web page maintenanceis preferable. Undergraduate students, graduate students, and recent graduates are welcome to apply. Loka is able to provide interns with an expense stipend of $35 per day for volunteering (or $700 per month full-time-equivalent).

If you are interested in working with us to promote a democratic politics of science and technology, please send a resume and a succinct cover letter explaining your interest and dates of availability to: The Loka Institute, P.O. Box 355, Amherst, MA 01004, USA. We also are accept applications by e-mail to <Loka@Loka.org> or by fax to 413-559-5811.


The Loka Institute is a nonprofit organization dedicated to making research, science and technology more responsive to democratically-decided social and environmental concerns. In doing so, we focus our efforts on achieving the following areas: 

* Critical assessments: evaluation of science and technology policies and decision-making processes; evaluation of citizen participation and the social and environmental impact of science and technology policies at all levels.

* Education: build citizen and community capacity to have an effective voice in decision-making processes at the local, regional, national and international levels.

*Dissemination and advocacy: create avenues for citizen participation in research, science and technology processes and policies.

TO FIND OUT MORE ABOUT our current activities and projects, to participate in our on-line discussion groups, to download or order publications, or to help, please visit our Web page: 
<http://www.Loka.org>. Or contact us via E-mail at Loka@Loka.org or by telephone at 413-559-5860.


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