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Undone Science: When research fails polluted communities

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  1. patience_limited
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    From the article: Dr. Ottinger's recent paper can be found here. It further illuminates the difficulty of focusing limited research resources on immediate public health concerns. The article...

    From the article:

    In the new field of studying “undone science” — also sometimes called “the sociology of ignorance” or “the systematic nonproduction of knowledge” — sociologists investigate situations where scientific research is secret, incomplete, ignored, constrained, or simply not done. This despite the fact, or sometimes because of the fact, that citizens, advocacy groups, and often scientists themselves have deemed it worthy of wider pubic understanding. The Trump administration’s scrubbing of scientific data from numerous government websites has added another descriptor — “data justice” — into this new realm of research.

    Vanderbilt University sociologist David Hess refers to lay people who organize to fight back against “undone science” as “mobilized publics.” In his 2016 book, “Undone Science: Social Movements, Mobilized Publics, and Industrial Transitions,” Hess notes that what often motivates the forming of such groups is that their actual experiences clash with the safety assurances that they hear from corporations or regulatory officials. “In other words,” he writes, “they are thinking, ‘I am sick, therefore, I doubt,’ or ‘I can smell the pollution in the air, therefore, I doubt.’”

    Dr. Ottinger's recent paper can be found here. It further illuminates the difficulty of focusing limited research resources on immediate public health concerns.

    The article touches on some of the social, political and economic factors leading to the underlying willful institutional blindness, but one of the best literary presentations can be found in Henrik Ibsen's story, "An Enemy of the People", subsequently adapted into everything from Arthur Miller's play of the same name, to the movie, Jaws. The social complexity posed by the interaction of people with vested interests in keeping harms secret, those with a sense of security founded in ignorance, and those who perceive a duty to know, underlies these stories.

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