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On Responsive Science

We should move towards an open and responsive model of science and technology development.

Published onOct 16, 2017
On Responsive Science

Responsive Science aims to help society guide the new technologies that are transforming our world.

Science is vision. To see the future, we pool our knowledge in order to refine our collective view of the world. Inviting others to challenge our current theories lets us find flaws in our predictions that would otherwise have gone unnoticed.

Technology is power. To shape the future, we develop and deploy tools to solve problems, sometimes creating new ones.

Together, science and technology can offer us a range of possible futures. Some of these are cloudy and uncertain, difficult to reach and hard to predict, while others are comparatively crisp and clear. We must decide which visions to clarify and ultimately make real.

Responsive Science seeks to help us choose wisely by inviting everyone to participate. Traditionally, only the wealthy and highly educated could engage in science. Sharing results was costly and difficult, so overall progress was slow. Today, researchers can effortlessly share their work with nearly everyone. And while it's hard for those without specific knowledge to improve the clarity of our scientific vision, anyone can help by pointing us in the right direction.

Which problems are most important? What might go wrong? These questions are relevant to everyone, particularly when projects aim to alter the shared environment. Responsive Science seeks to enable researchers to share their plans and actively invite suggestions from citizens and other scientists. If it works, the same model might be extended to other fields of research.

Citizens can shape the development and testing of technologies that may affect their own communities by advocating for open research and sharing concerns, suggestions, and criticism. Early feedback allows careful scrutiny of potential problems and permits technologies to be redesigned, thereby avoiding hazards that researchers might not anticipate on their own. Because science and technology will determine our collective future, we should make them responsive to societal voices.

Researchers can focus their attention on the problems that truly matter. Some paths to potential futures are only accessible if we see them clearly, requiring scientists to focus on them today. For technologists, actively soliciting advice from potential early adopters can improve the likelihood that inventions will eventually be chosen to benefit the world.

Last but not least, science should be fun for everyone. The current system encourages secrecy and blind competition, locking out citizens and creating uncertainty and anxiety among researchers. By working to change the system to encourage the open sharing of research proposals, we can make science and engineering more cooperative, efficient, and responsive to society.


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