Alternative Pathways in Science and Industry

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Book: Alternative Pathways in Science and Industry: Activism, Innovation, and the Environment in an Era of Globalization David Hess. MIT Press, 2006

Review

Review by Brian Martin, Published in Chain Reaction, Issue #101, December 2007, pp. 45-46 :

"David Hess is a professor of Science and Technology Studies at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, in New York state, in a department with a long tradition of activist-oriented scholarship. His new book has a long title: Alternative Pathways in Science and Industry: Activism, Innovation, and the Environment in an Era of Globalization (MIT Press, 2006). It is not light reading either, with a large, complex argument and a wealth of case material. But it has some valuable insights.

At the core of Hess's argument is his concept of "undone science." Research is carried out in a range of areas. Some, like nuclear power or automobile design, receive heavy funding. Others, like energy efficiency, are neglected by comparison. There is a lot of research that could be done in neglected areas, but is not: it is "undone." Groups with money and power have the greatest influence on what science is done - and undone.

The lop-sided development of science and technology disadvantages environmentalists. They can't offer the same level of authoritative backing for the alternatives they advocate. But not all is lost. Hess points to community-oriented research, some sponsored by social movement groups, some by socially concerned scientists inside the system.

Given that powerful interests shape the "pathways" for science and technology, social movements can respond in several ways. One is to oppose damaging developments, in what Hess calls "industrial opposition movements." The anti-nuclear-power movement is a prominent example. Another response is to promote development of alternatives, filling in the gaps of undone science. Hess calls these "technology- and product-oriented movements." The promotion of renewable energy is one of these.

Hess also describes two other pathway alternatives. One is localism, which promotes local provision of goods and services, such as energy and food. The other is access, which promotes fair distribution." (http://www.uow.edu.au/arts/sts/bmartin/pubs/07BRcr.html)