Why Independent Science News?
A truly public interest perspective on science and the science media is urgently needed. As our society has become more technologically oriented and our effects on the planet more pronounced, science has increasingly become the key battleground determining the social acceptability and official approval of new (and old) products and technologies. Probably even more important to future global possibilities is that science is also a battleground of ideas. The origins of common diseases, the nature of gender differences, how to feed the world, the merits of natural foods, or the effectiveness of animal testing, are all concepts that, depending on whether society accepts them or not, constrain future choices.
Because of these roles, science is a tempting target of manipulation for commercial entities, governments, and other powerful institutions. Not only does it offer a decisive opportunity to tilt the playing field in their favour, but also scientific decisions are often both complex and hidden from view (even from other scientists). Manipulation can therefore occur entirely unnoticed. Manipulation is further aided by the fact that scientists have constructed for themselves a mythology of impartiality and rigour that deters questioning by outsiders.
Consequently, scientific facts and ideas are not always what they seem. From counting the future world population or quantifying the deaths following the Chernobyl nuclear accident to preventing independent research on GMOs to the safety or the effectiveness of just about any product, including pharmaceuticals and basic foodstuffs, even including the fundamental nature of human disease, powerful interests routinely succeed in controlling the output of science. When data is manipulated on this scale then truth, the public interest, and democracy, all suffer. It becomes effectively impossible for any society to function and decide rationally and thoughtfully.
In no field of human endeavour is this more important or more true than food and agriculture.
These examples of science journalists exposing deceit and manipulation are rarities. They are rare because most science reporters, even at Science magazine and the New York Times, see themselves less as journalists and more as explainers of science. They typically lack the independence, the public interest focus, and often the expertise, to contextualise scientific results and penetrate the inner logic of individual motives and institutional agendas that are now necessary to explain much of science.
Therefore, the two aims of Independent Science News are to call attention to these defects and remedy them as far as possible.
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