Science tipped to score in Obama cash stimulus raises some issues about the role of scientists in policy making. This subtitle follows:
Researchers jockey for a piece of the US economic package.
Researchers have become one of many special interest groups seeking money from the public trough. Science occupies a unique position though compared to competing interest groups. Science is viewed by much of the public as a source of objective data. Policy makers use that data and technical guidance to formulate governmental policies. Governmental policies (in theory) are based on promoting the general welfare. Determining what constitutes the general welfare is linked to consensus values held by society (in theory). Those values cannot be a function of scientific data alone. They are ultimately linked to moral and ethical norms as well as practical matters like how much money is available. In reality policy decisions can be influenced by who supplies campaign funds or other forms of assistence helpful in retaining one's political office. Quoting from the first paragraph:
The US research community stands to gain billions of dollars in funding, as Democratic leaders in Washington DC seek to lay the foundation for a greener, more competitive economy in a $750-billion stimulus package.
Policy decisions entail designating priorities and deciding how much funding is to be alloted to cancer research as compared with say environmental concerns. It is not the task of science to determine relative values. It is the job of science to furnish policy makers with information and when needed interpret the data. Caution is required so as not to blur boundary lines.