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Re: <nettime> Why I won't support the March for Science
Florian Cramer on Tue, 25 Apr 2017 20:18:03 +0200 (CEST)


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Re: <nettime> Why I won't support the March for Science


On Mon, Apr 24, 2017 at 9:18 PM, Lunenfeld, Peter B. <lunenfeld {AT} arts.ucla.edu> wrote:

> or as little sense as anything else. If you feel there remains a
> difference, then writing off the M4S comes off as pointlessly fractious
> at best, and ally-denigrating, wheel-churning self-destruction at worst.

Just to be clear: I am neither against science nor scientists and I
generally sympathize with U.S. scientists protesting their governments.
However, one also has to consider the concrete political demands of the
March for Science. The demand for "evidence-based policies and
regulations" (https://www.marchforscience.com/mission-and-vision/)
is one where I have to draw the line - just as you might draw the line
not joining a rally against racism when it has been organized by
Farrakhan (or a conservative Muslim organization in Europe) with his
political demands.

Most Nettime readers, and even most humanities academics in the U.S.
and elsewhere, might not be familiar with the particular context of the
term "evidence-based". It is not simply a generic descriptor, but the
name of a particular policy movement. This Wikipedia article gives a
good overview:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evidence-based_practice

Let me just quote the last paragraph on evidence-based social programs:
"There are increasing demands for the whole range of social policy and
other decisions and programs run by government and the NGO sector to be
based on sound evidence as to their effectiveness. This has seen an
increased emphasis on the use of a wide range of Evaluation approaches
directed at obtaining evidence about social programs of all types. A
research collaboration called the Campbell Collaboration has been set
up in the social policy area to provide evidence for evidence-based
social policy decision-making. This collaboration follows the approach
pioneered by the Cochrane Collaboration in the health sciences. Using
an evidence-based approach to social policy has a number of advantages
because it has the potential to decrease the tendency to run programs
which are socially acceptable (e.g. drug education in schools) but
which often prove to be ineffective when evaluated] More recently the
Alliance for Useful Evidence has been established to champion the use
of evidence in social policy and practice. It is a UK-wide network that
promotes the use of high quality evidence to inform decisions on
strategy, policy and practice. The agency published a useful practice
guide with Nesta's Innovation Skills Team on the effective use of
research evidence in 2016."

In other words, if anti-scientific populism is one (right-wing) hell,
evidence-based policies and regulations is the other
(neoliberal-technocratic) hell. I only brought up the Netherlands as an
example because it's a country where this hell has taken over
considerable parts of everyday life, not only in academia, but also in
healthcare, social work and policymaking.

One might perhaps consider the demand for "evidence-based policies and
regulations" an badly worded attempt to demand a politics that takes
scientific insight (on climate change, for example) into its
considerations. However, as an academic - and even a scientist in the
continental European meaning of the word -, I do take words seriously,
all the more when they have been written by scientists.

Florian

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