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February 27, 1991

Making Science Our Own: Public Images of Science 1910-1955

Author Affiliations

Jeffersonville, Vt

Jeffersonville, Vt

JAMA. 1991;265(8):1034-1035. doi:10.1001/jama.1991.03460080104046

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The image of the aloof scientist concerned only with "objective" facts and leaving ethics to the "laypeople" is no longer tenable. "Without question, science now occupies an important place in American national life, not only in billion-dollar research and development (R&D) budgets, but also in the direct, visible effects of research knowledge," observes LaFollette, who notes that in the course of the 20th century, research changed from a relatively private to a public endeavor, subject to nonscientific regulation and scrutiny. As groups like the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the National Research Council have long recognized, the public understanding of science and scientists affects political response and, ultimately, the viability of the research community.

A former editor of Science, Technology, and Human Values, LaFollette finds a basic ambivalence in public attitudes toward science: both a recognition of a dependence on science and a fundamental skepticism toward it.