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Sci Eng Ethics. 2009 Sep;15(3):351-66. doi: 10.1007/s11948-009-9135-4. Epub 2009 May 12.

Science, democracy, and the right to research.

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  • 1Department of Government, California State University Sacramento, Sacramento, CA,95819-6089, USA. mark.brown@csus.edu

Abstract

Debates over the politicization of science have led some to claim that scientists have or should have a "right to research." This article examines the political meaning and implications of the right to research with respect to different historical conceptions of rights. The more common "liberal" view sees rights as protections against social and political interference. The "republican" view, in contrast, conceives rights as claims to civic membership. Building on the republican view of rights, this article conceives the right to research as embedding science more firmly and explicitly within society, rather than sheltering science from society. From this perspective, all citizens should enjoy a general right to free inquiry, but this right to inquiry does not necessarily encompass all scientific research. Because rights are most reliably protected when embedded within democratic culture and institutions, claims for a right to research should be considered in light of how the research in question contributes to democracy. By putting both research and rights in a social context, this article shows that the claim for a right to research is best understood, not as a guarantee for public support of science, but as a way to initiate public deliberation and debate about which sorts of inquiry deserve public support.

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PMID:
19434517
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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