Fledgling international science association adds two more prominent professors to its burgeoning membership. Principia Scientific International attributes its meteoric rise to increased public concern about corruption in government and corporate science.
Professors Paul Reiter and Ian Plimer are the latest recruits standing alongside the two-dozen other freshly installed experts who last month joined the organization styling itself as a force for higher standards in the fractious world of science.
Paul Reiter comes to Principia Scientific International (PSI) as Professor of Medical Entomology at Institut Pasteur, Paris. Professor Reiter grabbed mainstream media attention for his forthright skepticism of the authoritarian and censorious approach by governmental bodies in the hotly-contested man-made global warming debate. He has also provided specialist scientific testimony before the UK Parliament. From Australia to PSI comes Ian Plimer, also famed for his unswerving stand against the politicization of climate science. Professor Plimer is a prominent academic and professor of mining geology at the University of Adelaide.
Post Normal Science: A Creeping Blight Foretold
But why are leading international scientists warming to this counter culture spawning in the blogosphere? The answer, according to the fanfare of PSI, is that “honest scientist wants to have a fair, transparent and robust review of their work unhindered by fear or favor. They don’t want to be subjected to government cover-ups or corporate subversion of their individual rights.”
This new counter-cultural phenomenon coincides with the worldwide collapse of the global warming doomsaying cult that had its hub in the United Nations and certain English-speaking First World countries. With the cult’s demise there appears to be rich fertile soil for a much-needed return to a traditionalist and open approach to scientific inquiry. Canada’s most popular climatologist, Dr. Tim Ball, Chair of PSI perhaps sums up the problem most succinctly; “Politicized [post-normal] actors control bureaucracies within every national government and away from legislative oversight. Those bureaucracies clandestinely direct research funding to one side of the debate.”
The founders of Principia Scientific International (PSI) have conspicuously taken an unorthodox and maverick approach by targeting post-normal science in their cross-hairs. For readers unfamiliar with the concept, post-normalism is a brand of science that is often agenda-driven and conducted behind closed doors by big corporations and governments. It is a dangerously malign influence that outgoing former U.S. president Dwight D. Eisenhower once warned us about: “because of the huge costs involved, a government contract becomes virtually a substitute for intellectual curiosity.”
As any Prom on Show
Banding together under the flag of Principia Scientific International has been a boon to scientists from diverse specialisms, each offering their own take within the broader picture: ” That’s how this paradigm shift away from post-normalism and back to the traditional scientific method is building momentum, ” opines PSI’s website. Megalithic corporations and government research facilities are under suspicion like never before. The world is chastened by stories where “scientists falsify data to get research published and whistleblowers are bullied into keeping quiet.” Such scandals plunge Big Science deep into the gutter alongside discredited Big Banking.
But there are also technological reasons why PSI is gaining a name as the only game in town explicitly opposed to the tainted post-normal approach. For example, the PSI literature declares: “Almost any new hypothesis, complex equation or formula up for discussion can now be readily and cheaply augmented with cutting-edge graphics in a myriad of software packages to better present otherwise arcane and inextricable ideas to our review body and the wider public.”
But an even more critical element in their solution is this association’s pioneering approach to the peer-review process, itself. it’s termed Peer Review in Open Media (or ‘PROM’) and it’s as refreshing as it is simple. Part of the PSI technological toolbox consists of the welcome asset of instantaneity – data shared electrically fast in binary packets via ‘Skype’ video conferencing, blogger forums, emails, etc. Thereafter, a team of reviewers transparently and objectively weigh the merits of the new science on offer.
If this ground-breaking project can exploit such advantages and go viral such dissemination of knowledge promises to make PSI a most fertile feeding ground.
Hidden Science is Mystical and Malign
This is all very welcome respite for Dr. Ball. He knows better than any scientist what it means to be subjected to coercion, threats and censorship for holding ideas outside the mainstream. Dr. Ball is currently embroiled in defending what many regard as two vexatious libel suits merely for expressing his opinion that hidden government-sponsored science should not be trusted. The unintended consequence of these courtroom battles is that Dr. Ball has become a figurehead for the campaign for greater transparency in government-bankrolled science.
Elitist science – just like those “too big to fail” banks – stands accused of untold improprieties behind closed doors. Once peerless authorities, Britain’s Royal Society and the American Physical Society are just two leading national science bodies mired in controversy and suspicion. As with the banks, many agents of Big Science face accusations of cronyism, self-serving subversion, enforced self-censorship and financial and political opportunism. Therefore, weeding out the worst offenders and pruning back the deadwood is an imperative if the world is to turn this new age of austerity into a renaissance for the sciences. It can be achieved, says PSI, because just like there is grassroots support for a total restructuring of the global banking sector, so too are thousands of scientists pressing for reform of our science institutions.
Opposing the Evils of Ridicule and Censorship
But don’t be surprised if apologists for the discredited establishment exert their gatekeeping powers to mock any such science for not complying with it’s own self-serving “pal-review” system now ensconced in mainstream journals. Anything fomented in the blogosphere is inherently “sub standard,” according to those gatekeepers.
Yet there is little if anything to ridicule about the caliber of PSI’s membership. Professor Reiter is a member of the World Health Organization Expert Advisory Committee on Vector Biology and Control and Fellow of the Royal Entomological Society. He is an international specialist in the natural history, epidemiology and control of mosquito-borne diseases such as dengue fever, West Nile Virus, and malaria. While Professor Ian Plimer recently won the Gina Rinehart seal of approval with his appointment to the board of several key family companies.
Such voices of dissent are credible and compelling. As long as the Internet remains an open and free domain for the exchange and promotion of ideas PSI members can utilize fast and affordable computer-operated communication. Thereby all scientists in far-flung corners of the globe may meaningfully interact in real time to discuss, debate and assess cutting edge developments and manifest the true glory of intellectual freedom.
But as that sage former U.S. president warned, there is the ever-present danger “that public policy could itself become the captive of a scientific-technological elite.” Then let us never forget – the subversion of ideas goes hand in hand with the subversion of democracy. So let PSI ascend to become science’s new beacon of hope for individual freedom and truth.