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Publicly Good Science

What is publicly good science? Publicly good science is value free science that is accessible to both government and the public. Over the past four decades we have seen the destruction of public science. All state governments and the Federal government have, in the rush to privatise and outsource every service they have traditionally provided, closed down and downsized a whole host of government instrumentalities that provided government with vital value free scientific advice. It’s no accident the standing of science and scientists in the community has deteriorated during the privatisation, globalisation, deregulation and corporatisation era. Science is no longer considered to be value free. In an environment where all science is directed at pursuing activities that make a profit or service the corporate and business sector value free scientific advice is hard to come by.

Even bodies with an impeccable reputation among the international scientific community, like CSIRO and The Great Barrier Reef Marine Authority, have been so gutted of funds and staff it’s becoming increasingly difficult for them to offer value free scientific advice to governments. The rise and rise of the role of miniscule pseudo-scientific minority voices funded by the coal lobby who are pushing the idea global warming is not due to human activity, are having such a profound impact on government policy the Federal Treasurer brought in a lump of coal into Federal parliament to poo hoo the role fossil fuels play in the global warming debate.

The issue cuts across all scientific disciplines. Western Australia has only one part time marine geologist on staff in an era when rising sea levels are a real concern. Scientists working for the private sector do not promote value free science. They do not provide value free scientific advice to governments. Over and over again we have seen privately employed scientists hold back research data that does not support their employer’s proposed business plan. Even scientists who are employed by government on a part time project to project basis, find themselves under economic pressure if they do not table results that support whoever contracted them to do the research.

In an era of fake news and a loss of faith in government and science, it’s critical scientists be employed by the state to provide value free scientific advice. It’s even more critical they enjoy security of tenure. Without security of tenure and access to publicly funded scientific grants the chances of governments and the public getting value free scientific advice about critical issues is almost non-existent.