Organizing Integrity: American Science and the Creation of Public Interest Organizations, 1955-1975

by Kelly Moore
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Organizing Integrity: American Science and the Creation of Public Interest Organizations, 1955-1975
Author:
Kelly Moore
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1996
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The American Journal of Sociology
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101
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6
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1592
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1627
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Abstract:

Organizing Integrity: American Science and the Creation of Public Interest Organizations, 1955-1975

Kelly Moore Barnard College

The power and prestige of science is typically thought to be grounded in the ability of scientists to draw strong distinctions be- tween scientific and nonscientific interests. This article shows that it is also grounded in a contradictory act: the demonstration of the compatibility between scientific and nonscientific interests. Between 1955 and 1975, American political protest forced scientists to find ways to reconcile these contradictions. One way in which this reconciliation was accomplished was through the formation of public interest science organizations, which permitted the preserva- tion of organizational representations of pure, unified science, while simultaneously assuming responsibilities to serve the public good.

Among the most well-documented conclusions from studies by sociolo- gists and historians of science is the conclusion that scientists consistently engage in activities to create, defend, and reinforce their intellectual, social, and political turf. By defending their monopoly on a particular

' I am extremely grateful to past members of Science for the People, and to past and present members of the Union of Concerned Scientists and Scientists' Institute for Public Information for their assistance with this project. The archivists at the Library of Congress and the MIT Archives and Special Collections went above and beyond the call of duty to assist me in the use of their respective collections, and I am greatly appreciative of their help. I thank Edwin Amenta, Jeff Goodwin, Daniel L. Kleinman, Edward W. Lehman, Jane D. Poulsen, the Barnard College Willen Seminar, the New York University Politics, Power, and Protest Workshop, the Columbia University Center for the Social Sciences Institutions and Identities Workshop, and the AJS reviewers for their comments on earlier drafts of this paper. I greatly benefited from dis- cussions with Elisabeth S. Clemens, Kenneth Dauber, Doug McAdam, and Walter W. Powell. An earlier version of this paper was presented at the 1993 meeting of the Society for the Social Study of Science. This research was supported by National Science Foundation Dissertation Grant 9101174, an Indiana Center on Philanthropy Dissertation Fellowship in Non-Profit Governance, and a grant from the Indiana Center on Philanthropy. Direct all correspondence to Kelly Moore, Department of Sociology, Barnard College, 3009 Broadway, New York, New York 10027-6598. E-mail: kmoore@barnard.columbia.edu

O1996 by The University of Chicago. All rights reserved. 0002-9602/96/10106-0003$01.50

1592 AJS Volume 101 Number 6 (May 1996): 1592-1627 Science

kind of knowledge and method of inquiry from the claims of conten-

ders, scientists have been able-albeit with varying levels of success-to

maintain their position as the legitimate interpreters of the natural

world. These activities may be identified as "boundary work" (Gieryn

1983).

This line of research rejects the strong functionalist assumption that the features of science are unique and provide institutional imperatives for truth making. Rather than assuming an "inside" or "outside" to science, as Merton (1973) and Zuckerman (1977) do, it asks how some activities and claims come to be seen as unique and objective and scien- tists as self-governing. The continuity of science as a social category has depended upon scientists' ability to convince the public, policy makers, and other scientists of the verity of these claims (Callon and Latour 1981; Collins 1988; Epstein 1995; Gieryn 1983, 1988, 1994; Guston 1994; Jasanoff 1987, 1990; Latour 1987; Latour and Woolgar 1986; Law 1991; Lynch 1985; Mulkay 1974; Shapin and Schaffer 1985; see also Shapin 1992).

But the prestige of science is based on more than science's ability to convince others of its unique features as a system that interprets the natural world. To reap prestige and financial support (from what- ever source), scientists must also demonstrate that their work is ulti- mately objective and useful to a broad constituency. These two dimen- sions of science point to different lines of action. One suggests actions directed toward differentiating science from other activities, the other toward identifying the affinities between science and other interests. Although in some historical periods these lines of action may be easily joined or unnecessary to connect, at other times, particularly in the late 20th century, their union poses practical problems of action for scien- tists.

This article expands models of the bases of science's political authority by examining scientists' activities during the most recent cycle of political protest, which stretched from the late 1950s into the early 1970s. Protest- ers criticized science, technology, and rationality itself, prompting a wide variety of scientists, from graduate students to Nobel Prize winners, from physicists to biologists, to seek ways to make science more "socially responsible." Although scientists had of course engaged in public politi- cal activity prior to this period, the social movements of the period pro- voked serious controversy among scientists, as well as between scientists and nonscientists, over the proper role of scientists in public political life. Because old ways of either joining science and politics or keeping them separate were untenable, activist scientists sought new ways to maintain credibility simultaneously as objective scientists and as political actors serving the public good.

To do so, activist scientists had to be politically critical of science without suggesting that the content of scientific knowledge might be tainted by nonscientific values (Downey 1988; Jasanoff 1990). More spe- cifically, they faced two related problems. First, their activities and claims threatened to fragment professional organizations that represented "pure" science and unity among scientists. Second, once the discussion became public, it threatened to reveal the subjective nature of problem choices, methods, and interpretations because it focused attention on the relationship between sponsors of science and scientific knowledge. One way in which these tensions were reconciled was through the creation of what I call public interest science organizations. They made serving the public interest relatively permanent and durable, obfuscated how politi- cal interests affect scientific knowledge, and helped preserve the organi- zational representations of scientific unity: professional science organiza- tions.

Organizations routinize, publicize, legitimate, and solidify action by enrolling individuals or other resources (Latour 1987) and creating rules and routines that come to be taken for granted (Weber 1946a; Goffman 1961; DiMaggio and Powell 1983; Powell and DiMaggio 1991). Public interest science organizations created a new form of action among scien- tists that was deemed neither purely scientific nor purely political, becom- ing a kind of "safety valve" that prevented a potentially disastrous frag- mentation of the organizational representations of "pure" science and "pure" politics by leaving intact existing professional science organiza- tions and existing social movement organizations. Once in place, these organizations directed attention toward the uses made of science by non- scientists and away from potentially devastating examinations of the po- litical determinants of scientific knowledge itself. Thus, these organiza- tions helped to prevent the disastrous disintegration of science and to contribute to the ongoing moral authority of scientists.

To develop this model, this article examines three science-based activ- ist groups formed between 1960 and 1970: Scientists' Institute for Public Information (SIPI), the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), and Science for the People (SftP) (also known as Scientists and Engineers for Social and Political Action).' Led by Barry Commoner, SIPI was formed in

The only other public interest science organization that had the potential to be included in the study by virtue of its formation during the period of political protest under study here (1955-62) is the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), founded in 197 1. It is not included here because its formation had a weak connection to political protest (it was an offshoot of a consumer group led by Ralph Nader). One reviewer suggested that the Federation of American Scientists could also be included. Although it cannot strictly be categorized as a professional association, it is not a public interest organization, since it mainly seeks to benefit scientists in their dealings with the state. SIPI, UCS, and SftP were distinguished by their explicit mission to

1963 as a coalition of 18 local fallout-information groups. After the Nu- clear Test Ban Treaty in 1963, the group turned its attention to environ- mental issues, publishing the journal Environment and developing pro- grams to link journalists and scientists. In 1995, SIPI was a thriving, vibrant group based in New York City with an annual budget of $2.5 million. A nonmember group (consisting of a large paid staff and sub- sisting upon donations from foundations and individuals), SIPI mainly functions to facilitate communication between scientists and journalists and to educate journalists on science-based issues of popular concern.

UCS was formed in 1969 by faculty and graduate students at MIT to facilitate a one-day research stoppage among scientists, during which scientists would discuss the relationship between science and the military. The group was eventually composed mainly of faculty. In the mid-1970s, it developed a paid staff and focused most of its attention on weapons and energy issues. Like SIPI, in 1995, UCS was a thriving, nonmember organization, whose main activities were providing information to groups indirectly through the mails, lobbying in Washington, D.C., and supply- ing expert witnesses in legal and legislative debates. They rely mainly on individual donations for financial support.

SftP was formed in 1969 at the annual meeting of the American Physi- cal Society as a group dedicated to finding ways to take political and social action against the war in Vietnam. While UCS and SIPI undertook a moderate strategy early on, SftP was more self-avowedly radical, seek- ing to provide technical assistance to the poor and the Black Panthers and to educate the public on the relationship between science and capitalism, among other things. The organization was largely dependent upon volun- teers and never received substantial foundation funding. Over the next 25 years, the organization slowly dissolved in a morass of self-criticism, dwindling funds, and lack of members, held together only by the publica- tion of their magazine, Science for the People. In 1991, the group dis- solved. At its high point, 1972, their magazine had a paid circulation of 2,000 and claimed 5,000 members. What unifies the three organizations are the circumstances that prompted their formation and, more impor- tant, the ways in which they solved the problem of joining science and politics while keeping them apart.

EXISTING CONCEPTIONS OF BOUNDARY WORK

Homogeneous, Constant Interests as Determinants of Boundary Work

Studies of boundary work typically examine scientists as scientists, not as people who have competing, complex, and overlapping social commit-

seek ways to use science for the benefit of the public and by their connections to political movements of the period.

ments that reciprocally affect professional and nonprofessional aspects of their lives. The assumption is that professional commitments are always more salient than other kinds of commitments, such as those to religion, gender, ethnicity, or politics. By examining scientists qua scientists, how- ever, theorists turned their attention away from examining how the social ties of scientists to other social groups complement, conflict with, or become in any way consequential to their actions as scientists. Instead they simply disappear from analysis.j Studies of boundary work also typically portray scientists as relatively unified, such that boundary work is viewed as mainly "us-against-them," where the "us" is unproblemati- cally suggested to be all scientists (Turner 1980; Gieryn 1983).

Other studies, however, have shown that these views are rather lim- ited. Scientists, like other people, sometimes exhibit commitments to mul- tiple social identities. When these multiple commitments have consequences for organizational action, these people may be thought of as "boundary spanners" (Hirsch 1972) who bridge the gap between multi- ple organizations and communities. As Kleinman (1995), Lewenstein (1991), and Wolfle (1989) have shown, by attending to the actions of groups of boundary spanners, the process by which gaps and bridges between science and other institutions are created and sustained may be discerned.

Related to the tendency to view scientists only qua scientists is the inclination of researchers to view scientists as a unified group, ignoring variation in when, how, and around what issues they are unified. More importantly, it neglects the substantial evidence of serious intellectual and political divisions among scientists (Kevles 1978, chap. 2; Kuznick 1994; Smith 1965; Primack and von Hippel 1974; Epstein 1995). Scien- tists exhibit a wide range of political opinions, religious beliefs, and in- come levels; these difference~ impinge upon the kinds of claims that scientists make about the proper relationship between science and poli- tics, as well as forming the basis for conflict among scientists. Thus, the process of setting boundaries is not simply a struggle between a unified group of scientists and nonscientists, but a process of struggle among scientists as well.

Differentiation as Boundary Work

A second common feature of studies of boundary work is that such work is usually thought to be accomplished by highlighting the unique and

Of course, feminist treatments of science have considered the relationship between science and gender in many ways, but there have not been, to my knowledge, few examinations of how practicing scientists seek to strike a balance between personal demands arising from their gender roles and professional demands.

distinctive features of science and scientists and by keeping science sepa- rate from other kinds of practices (Downey 1988; Gieryn 1983). By keep- ing nonscientists from viewing and thoroughly understanding the actual research practices and processes by which scientific evidence is evaluated and by maintaining control over who may and may not interpret the behavior of "nature," scientists maintain a social position in which they may perpetuate the maintenance of claims to expert knowledge (Weber 19466, p. 139; Gieryn 1983; Greenberg 1971). Strategies that maximize autonomy have the advantage of preventing nonscientists from being privy to intellectual disputes among scientists. Such knowledge would threaten the public perception that scientists share intellectual criteria that determine judgments about the natural world (Moore and Clemens 1994).

The honored political and cultural position of science, however, also rests on the alignment between the interests of scientists and their patrons. In order to make demands for public financial support and prestige, scientists must also convince nonscientists that science has an affinity with the interests of nonscientists. American scientists have con- sistently struggled among themselves over the relative balance of engage- ment in the nonscientific world and attention to the "purely scientific." At some points they have claimed to be rightfully completely isolated from the nonscientific world; at others, they have eagerly sought to dem- onstrate how their wares may be used for the betterment of human life (Kevles 1978, chap. 2; Kuznick 1987, chap. 3; Noble 1977; Shapin and Schaffer 1985; Turner 1990; Weber 1946b, p. 138).

But what exactly it means to be "socially responsible" or to demon- strate the connections between science and other features of social life is not always evident to scientists a priori (Lewenstein 1992). Instead, they must engage in a process of negotiating what actions constitute responsi- bility, what products are useful, who is legitimately able to judge the utility of science and the relative responsibility of scientists, and in whose interests they do and ought to work.

Boundary as Rhetoric

Perhaps the most outstanding feature of studies of boundary work is their emphasis on rhetoric as the main component of boundaries. In this view, differentiation between science and nonscience is achieved by oral or written means to discount interlopers who claim to be doing scientific work, those who claim that science is not self-regulating, or those who suggest that science is tainted by nonscientific interests (Downey 1988; Gieryn 1983; Jasanoff 1987; Latour and Woolgar 1986; Mulkay 1974; Turner 1980). Such discounting is accomplished by using what are pre- sumed to be common, shared understandings about science. As Michael Mulkay argues, "leaders of academic science in Britain, and more clearly, the United States have drawn selectively on these vocabularies in order to depict science in a way that justifies their claim to special political prestige . . . the biased image of science which they have vigor- ously provided seems to have been widely accepted, not only among the public at large, but at least in part within official circles" (1974, p. 654).

Material objects have also been shown to be important markers in the production of scientific knowledge, as recent work by Latour (1987) and Star and Griesemer (1989) has demonstrated. In this view, objects as markers are flexible and mutable and change their meaning across social situations. Because objects are fundamentally unstable they therefore provide loci for claims-making within social groups constituted around them.

A third kind of marker of authority has received far less attention from sociologists of science than either rhetoric or objects: formal organiza- tions. One of the ways that science as a practice is distinguished from other activities is by physically setting it apart in laboratories and special- ized departments. The University of Chicago Department of Physics and Kitt Peak National Observatory, for example, are separate organizational or suborganizational entities and places that publicly separate the prac- tices of scientists and nonscientists and separates the work of certain kinds of scientists from others (even if the work that gets done in them depends on the collaboration of people who are not physically located there [Latour 19871). Because organizations are places where ongoing, repeated interactions take place among members and between the organi- zation and other organizations, the practices and activities in which the group is involved are likely to be durable and visible and to mark mem- bership (Breines 1989; Clemens 1993; DiMaggio and Powell 1983; Goff- man 196 1; Rothschild-Whitt 1979; Selznick 1949).

Organizations function in ways that are similar to "boundary pack- ages" (Fujimura 19921, which are sets of practices and objects of action that narrow the range of possible actions and facilitate cooperation be- tween multiple social worlds (p. 176). Such packages have the advantage of identifying both a subject and a way to engage the subject, which she calls a method. What stabilizes social systems is the routinization of the linkage between a strategy and a subject. Organizations have similar functions: they identify a subject and a way to go about producing or engaging that subject. Thus, organizations, like boundary packages, pro- vide both an object of social action and stable but flexible sets of rules for how to go about engaging with that object. In the case of public interest science organizations, science and its relation to politics became the main object of action. Although SIPI, UCS, and SftP emphasized different activities, their methods for engaging in the joining and separat- ing of science and public life shared similar broad characteristics: they provided a method that was broad enough to encompass a variety of activities and rhetorical claims but also preserved the essential features of science and politics and bounded their object in such a way that science and politics remained distinct realms of action. Organizations thus formed a bridge between science and politics that left usual ways of practicing science and politics intact.

Organizations are thus not entirely separate from rhetoric or material objects, since all three are outcomes of enrolling people or things into something coherent and may subsequently be used to perpetuate enroll- ment processes. By enrolling, I mean the process of assigning roles and relative value to individuals, material goods, ideas, objects, groups, or words, particularly in the service of a desired end (Callon, Law, and Rip 1986; Latour and Woolgar 19861.~ Second, material objects, rhetoric, and organizations are linked to each other since any of the three may be mobilized to help create or perpetuate any of the others.' But organiza- tions are different in that they create (relatively) permanent sets of rules and routines that stabilize social relations between organizations and individuals and other organizations (Dauber 1990; DiMaggio and Powell 1983; Powell and DiMaggio 1991; Turner 1990). Organizations are public displays of previous enrolling processes that demonstrate that not just an individual but many people have agreed to the principles that the organization presents (Callon and Latour 1981). They are also public displays in the sense that they mark membership between groups and provide templates for action by others (Clemens 1993; DiMaggio and Powell 1983; Goffman 1961; Dauber 1995). Finally, because organiza- tions are usually permanently located in a physical place (although with new technologies, this is less the case), they provide visible and stable ways of depicting social boundaries.

JOINING SCIENCE AND POLITICS

The history of American science shows that efforts to join professional and political interests have occurred rather regularly. In the 1930s, scien-

For example, in writing a literature review, one "enrolls" other ideas and individuals on behalf of the argument one wishes to make. In doing so, one is (1) establishing credibility by making use of the work and names of other people that have credibility with a particular community; and (2) making it more difficult for challengers to under- mine one's claims, because to do so, a challenger would have to also undermine the claims of those identified in the literature review.

I thank Kenneth Dauber for pointing this out to me.

tists promoted scientific solutions to economic problems associated with the Great Depression including their own unemployment (Kuznick 1987); at the end of the Second World War, scientists explored the limits of their moral and social responsibility for the atomic bomb by providing information to the public on the social responsibility of scientists (Boyer 1994, chaps. 4 and 5; Hodes 1982; Lewenstein 1991, p. 22; Smith 1965; Strickland 1968). I. I. Rabi summed up the dilemma that motivated some scientists to engage in such activities after World War 11: "If we take the stand that our object is merely to see that the next war is bigger and better, we ultimately lose the respect of the public. In popular demagogy we [will] become the unpaid servants of the 'munitions makers' and mere technicians, rather than the self-sacrificing public-spirited citizens we feel ourselves to be" (quoted in Kevles 1978, p. 335).

The political climate in the decade after the Second World War cooled nearly all efforts to engage in progressive (e.g., radically left or liberal) political action. Loyalty oaths, security investigations, and the widely publicized investigation of J. Robert Oppenheimer, who had been glori- fied only a decade earlier for his participation in the creation of the atomic bomb, prevented even existing groups such as the Federation of American Scientists and the American Association of Scientific Workers from engaging in much if any political activity. Scientists did engage in political activity to be sure, but it largely involved negotiations by scien- tists and the state over the degree of government oversight of scientific research (Ezrahi 1990, p. 25 7; Kleinman 1995).

Following a decade of political repression, suspicion, and hostility to- ward the left, the American political climate became more hospitable for the expression of political and intellectual opinions that were critical of the state's agenda and for the development of new forms of political protest and political action (Katz 1986; Kleidman 1993; McAdam 1982). Critical analyses of the place of science in American life came from both scientists and nonscientists and helped produce the circumstances that prompted some scientists to seek ways to join science and leftist politics.

Social Movement Participants as Critics of Science

The more open political environment of the late 1950s and early 1960s promoted the development of one of the most contentious periods of political action in American history (Gitlin 1993; Farber 1994; McAdam 1982), and scientists did not escape the fray, either as subjects or partici- pants. Early in the period, criticisms of the relationship between the

U.S. military-based economy and foreign policy and American science developed among participants in the nuclear test ban movement. Al- though scientists played an active role in this and the emergent environ-

mental movement, criticism of the role of scientists in developing weap-

ons and other products that led to environmental, health, and social

problems was a prominent feature of these movements (Fox 1985; Katz

1986; Kleidman 1993; Wittner 1987). Perhaps more significantly, the

model of logical, rational, ends-oriented action and thinking that science

epitomized also came under fire as a source of alienation (SDS 1962).

These criticisms were buttressed by commentary by humanist intellec- tuals who explicated the ills associated with the hegemony of science, technology, and rationality. Although these doubts were expressed spo- radically in the late 1950s and early 1960s, by the middle of the 1960s, scientists were being blamed for, among other things, the war in Viet- nam, alienation, a decline in the quality of life even as material prosperity increased, and a multitude of environmental problems (Elull 1964; Gail- braith 1967; Roszak 1969, Marcuse 1964).

By the end of the 1960s, these criticisms had taken a decidedly aggres- sive and hostile tone and encompassed critiques not only of the uses of science but of its practices and epistemological bases. Younger students and intellectuals influenced by the antiwar, civil rights, and free speech movements leveled complaints about the dangers of rational, technical ways of thinking, arguing that they led to elitism and to concern with ends and not means (Dickson 1988; Leslie 1993).

As political protest by Americans, especially young students, increas- ingly took place on college campuses after 1965, these criticisms were manifested as actions taken against the most accessible representations of the arrangements that were thought to be the cause of the war in Vietnam. Often this meant that protests took place at the military- supported buildings and laboratories in which scientists were increasingly likely to work (CUSC 1968; Kevles 1978, p. 355; Leslie 1993, chaps. 4 and 5; Spender 1969). Unlike the period before 1955, during the 1960s the antiwar, peace, and student movements (and later the women's movement) invoked a broader questioning of the assumption that the continual buildup of weapons and an economy based on militarism were necessary to keep America safe and prosperous. Instead, a wide variety of groups questioned the militarism that had characterized the postwar period and brought with them a broad suspicion of the state and those associated with it (Breines 1989; DeBendetti 1990; Kevles 1978; Lapp 1965; Leslie 1993). Thus, the alliance between science and the military was no longer helpful in demonstrating scientists' commitment to human welfare; indeed, it had become a serious liability.

The amorphous but highly visible counterculture that appeared at the end of the 1960s also posed a challenge to rationality as the dominant epistemological basis for Western thought and action. Drug use, astrol- ogy, psychedelic art, the occult, yoga, and Eastern religions-all based on entirely different premises than Western rationality-were increasingly valued precisely because they privileged sensual experience over logic, variations in experiences over homogeneity, and the diversity of experience over its similarities. Instead of helping to impose order on the world, they promoted a sense of wonder, freshness, and immediacy of experience (Roszak 1969; Morgan 1991).

The counterculture's epistemological challenge to the dominance of rationality was heightened by developments in the philosophy of science that challenged the notion that scientific ideas were the result of the systematic uncovering of external laws of nature and that scientifically derived ideas were true while other kinds of ideas were less certain. The work of Karl Popper, Thomas Kuhn, and Paul Feyerabend in particular suggested that scientific ideas were provisional, not absolute, and that historical events could shape the methods and problem choices of scien- tists.

Taken together, social movement organizations, intellectuals, and the counterculture provided a strong challenge to the hegemony of science as a system of knowledge and to the role of scientists in producing ideas and products that served the interests of a narrow range of social groups. Yet, it would be a mistake to view the questioning of the place of rational- ity, science, and technology in American society as coming only from outside the scientific community. Some scientists took advantage of the changing political climate to exchange information among themselves about the dangers posed by recent scientific developments, and some participated in the very same social and intellectual movements that were critical of science. These activities did not, however, result in even lim- ited espousal of-or even public wrangling with-the social and political nature of knowledge production. Instead, emphasis was placed on re- sponding to the less radical critiques of the uses of knowledge, as I show below.

Scientists as Critics of Science

As the loyalty oaths and security investigations that had characterized the late 1950s and early 1960s became less common, formal and informal restrictions on the exchange of scientific information were lessened. As a result, evidence of the costs of "progress" through science began to circu- late among both scientists and the public (Fox 1985, pp. 292-306; Lew- enstein 1991). Most well known was the work of Rachel Carson, who, in publishing Silent Spring, indicted American science and industry for producing pollutants that were ruining flora, fauna, and entire ecosys- tems. But even earlier than that, information about the environmental and human health hazards that did or could result from atomic radiation in the form of fallout were becoming more widely discussed among scien- tists.

While scientists were becoming more aware of the environmental and human health problems associated with the fruits of their labors, they also began to publicly examine whether scientists themselves had a par- ticular kind of responsibility for problems associated with science. For example, beginning in the late 1940s, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) was actively engaged in programs to bring scientific information into public view through the production of magazines such as Scientific American and indirectly through coopera- tion with the National Association of Science Writers. This activity was motivated in large part by a moral belief on the part of scientists that the scientific method could and should provide a rational, balanced way to make political decisions (Lewenstein 1991; Wolfle 1989).

By the mid-1960s, more and more scientists-especially young scien- tists-were located on college campuses (NSF 1978) where political de- bates and protest were increasingly centered, and they signed antiwar petitions in percentages comparable to professors of political science, psychology, and philosophy (Ladd and Lipset 1974, p. 67). On some campuses, scientists were founders of faculty antiwar groups and pro- vided privileged information that was used as a basis for protest against military-sponsored research establishments (Leslie 1993).

Viewed against the backdrop of a larger cycle of protest, the formation of SIPI, UCS, and SftP is the result of the ability of scientists to take advantage of a thaw in the political climate to press agendas that had been impossible to pursue during the late 1940s and early 1950s, thereby engendering debates about the role of scientists in public life; their forma- tion is also the result of new kinds of pressures for action that came from social movements. These changes presented opportunities for liberal scientists to shake off the legacy of several decades of conservative leader- ship in American science and to assert their vision of science as the servant of "the people," not just of industry or a narrow range of state agencies (Allen 1970; Beckwith 1986; Cahn 197 1; Nelkin 197 1; Per1 1970; Primack and von Hippel 1974).

Among other questions, scientists asked, Would it be possible to view science as the source of social and political problems but to continue working in it? Should one examine the practices that took place in the laboratory? Should attention be focused on the sources of funding of science? The problem that scientists faced was one that other activist professionals faced as well: "Is radicalism subsisting in a slum for a year or two, or is it developing your individual talents so you can function as a radical in 'professional' fields and throughout your adult life? Can a teacher be radical in his profession? or an artist? or a lawyer?" (Michael Haber, quoted in Breines 1989, p. 128). David Kotelchuck of SftP de- scribed the problem this way, "By the late '60s I wanted what I did in my science to be related more to my personal values, and to doing good for human beings in a very direct manner. One of the elements of crisis was that while I was successful as a researcher at Vanderbilt and had long ago decided that I would not do military work, I was teaching graduate students who would eventually do military work, while at night and on the weekends, I was protesting the [Vietnam] War. And that caused a great deal of stress for me" (interview with David Kotelchuck, March 13, 1991; see the appendix for a list of interviews).

Differences among scientists, as well as between scientists and nonsci- entists, became more and more evident. Some scientists simply ignored the entire dilemma. Some, as I show below, argued that science and other features of social life simply did not and should not mix. Still others rejected old models of joining science and politics when the main beneficiary was the state and sought new constituencies to serve (Allen 1970; Beckwith 1986). In forming new organizations, no matter how radical or liberal, scientists eventually avoided criticizing themselves and examining the relationship between patronage and scientific knowledge and, instead, created organizations that preserved the notion of objective science by focusing attention on the uses made of science by other groups.

FOUNDERS AND THE FORMATION OF UCS, SIPI, AND SftP

The scientists who formed SIPI, UCS, and SftP were mainly graduate students or faculty engaged in research in a university setting. Working and studying on a college campus exposed these scientists to protest against the relationship between the military and universities and to new forms of political critique and action in ways that scientists in other locations were not. Table 1 summarizes some of the characteristics of the founders of the three organizations, and figures 1 and 2 compare some of those characteristics with those of other scientists.

As evidenced by the mean number of years since last degree, members of SftP were on average the youngest, while UCS founders were the oldest of the three groups. But in some ways these two groups of scientists were actually quite similar in spite of age differences; interviews revealed that UCS members were likely to have had political experiences in leftist politics in the 1930s, while members of SftP were likely to have had experiences with leftist politics in the 1960s. This was generally not true of members of the SIPI.

Founders of all three groups were drawn largely from the ranks of academic science; UCS members exclusively so. The modal rank of UCS

TABLE 1

SELECTEDCHARACTERISTICSOF FOUNDINGMEMBERSOF SIPI, UCS, AND SFTP

SIP1 UCS SftP
Mean years since    
  most recent    
  degree ............. 12.6 20.3 6.0
Modal rank* ........ Associate professor Professor Graduate student
Major fields repre-      
  sented (%) ........ Biology (99)t Engineering (25); Biology (43)
      physics (23)  
N ...................... 24 47 2 9

SOURCES.-L~S~

of SIPI founding members: brochure for "National Conference for Scientific Informa- tion on Nuclear Age Problems" (Commoner Papers, box 438); list of UCS founding members: Allen (1970); list of SftP founding members: (1) the notice to found SftP at the 1969 APS meeting, (2) a list of those who volunteered to organize a local chapter after the initial APS meeting, and (3) contributors to the first SftP newsletter (authors' files). Characteristics of members of UCS, SIPI, and SftP were drawn from American Men of Science: A Biographical Directory (vol. 17 is American Men and Women of Science [New York: Bowker]). Additional information for SIPI members was drawn from the "National Conference" brochure (Commoner Papers), for UCS members from Allen (1970), and for SftP members from a 1991 survey of the founders of SftP by the author (see the appendix).

*All three organizations exhibited a wide range of ranks among members; thus measures of central tendency should be interpreted cautiously. As well, SftP included two members who worked in industry and three research associates, while SIPI founders included two research associates and three physicians (radiologists) who did not hold academic positions.

f Biology is here used in a broad sense; 25% of the founders held faculty positions in medical schools.

L'

0: I I I I 1950 1952 1954 1956 1958 1960 1962 1964 1966 1968 1970

year

A All Scientists +Physicists +Biologists *Chemists +Geologists -" Mathematician+ Agriculturalists

FIG. 1.-Percentage of employed scientists working for colleges, industry, and government, 1958-70 (NSF 1978).

Mathematics Physics/Astro *Chemistry + Earth Science + Biological Science + Agricultural Sci.

FIG.2.-Science doctorates awarded in the United States, 1955-75 (from the National Research Council, Survey of Earned Doctorates).

founders was full professor, and several founders were chairs of depart- ments. Among the three groups, then, UCS founders were most closely attached to an institution of academic research. SftP founders were mainly graduate students, enrolled for the most part in prestigious pro- grams at Harvard, the University of Chicago, the University of Wiscon- sin, Stanford, Berkeley, Columbia, and the University of Michigan (not coincidentally, campuses that were sites of significant political protests). The founders of SIPI were mainly associate professors; a few of them worked at prestigious research universities, some at state universities with lesser-known research programs, and some at research positions at hospitals. Members of SIPI and SftP were most likely to be biologists, while UCS founders were largely drawn from the ranks of engineers and physicists.

Figure 1 provides information about the work location of scientists between 1950 and 1970. Founders of SIPI, UCS, and SftP were clearly part of a trend toward academic employment among scientists; (NSF 1973). Industry also became a less important employer of scientists during this period. The fact that biologists and physicists were most active in public interest science may in part be explained by the fact that they were more likely than other groups of scientists to be working on a college campus, where much of the protest and discussion that prompted the

development of public interest science took place (Department of Labor

1973).

No annual data is available on average age or rank of scientists for this period, but the number of doctoral degrees awarded in the natural and physical sciences, shown in figure 2, suggests that there were indeed more young scientists on campuses, if we assume that science graduate students were in their early twenties when they entered graduate school. Furthermore, while available data suggest that the median age of scien- tists does not appear to decrease between 1950 and 1970 (it remained between 30-35 years during this period), the median age for physicists and biologists-those that were most active in the three groups under study here-dropped from 30-35 years between 1950 and 1960 to 25-29 years between 1960 and 1970 (NSF 1978).

Unfortunately, there is no systematic data available to assess the politi- cal views or participation of scientists during this period. Surveys of scientists on college campuses during the Vietnam War, however, suggest that scientists held diverse political opinions. For example, surveys reveal that they were divided in their opinions about the U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War: on some campuses, they were hawkish, while on others they represented a strongly antiwar position (Armor et al. 1967; Cahn 1971; Ladd and Lipset 1974; Schuman and Laumann 1967). Indeed, what is striking about these studies is the degree to which the campuses on which the surveys were taken affect the results, suggesting that scien- tists were highly divided on political issues.

In sum, the scientists who formed these organizations followed disci- plinary, age, and work location trends among scientists as a whole al- though they were not typical of all scientists. Founders were likely to work on college campuses, to be biologists, and to be younger than other American scientists. That biologists were increasingly involved in public interest science activities may represent a simple numeric increase in biologists (especially young biologists), not any particular feature of their subject of study.

Criticizing Existing Professional and Academic Organizations

One of the strategies that scientists who sought to reconcile competing scientific and political agendas first attempted was to use existing profes- sional and academic organizations. Activist scientists hoped to engage their colleagues in critical debates about the role of science in society, the extent to which science and scientists were responsible for particular social ills, and how to take action on the resolutions that emerged. There were of course many other academic fields in which members sought to find ways to express social responsibility; sociologists, historians, and members of the Modern Language Association, among others, were able to work within existing professional associations by successfully persuad- ing entire professional associations to set up caucuses to examine issues such as sexism and racism and to take public stands against the war in Vietnam. In retrospect, it seems plausible for scientists to expect that their professional associations might do so as well.

Yet professional organizations in the sciences were reluctant to make public statements or to take public action on "nonscientific" issues. Pro- fessional organizations represented past efforts at eliminating (at least in their public presentation) images of divisiveness and were organized around the principle of promoting disciplines as purveyors of objectively produced products (Kohlstedt 1976; Luker 1984; Sokal 1986). Thus, the very organizations that were the collective representation of a vision of scientists as unified interpreters of the natural world could not serve the new purposes. Activist scientists thus turned to another solution: the formation of new kinds of organizations.

SIP1 and the AAAS.-The organizational precursor to SIPI, the Greater St. Louis Committee for Nuclear Information (CNI), was founded in 1958 by Barry Commoner and some of his colleagues at Wash- ington University, who had been receiving an increasing number of tele- phone calls and letters from members of the St. Louis community about newspaper reports that had documented higher-than-average levels of atomic fallout in St. Louis in 1957 ("Atomic Information Group" 1958). Commoner wrote in an article in Science that one of the motivations for the formation of CNI was scientists' concern over contradictory state- ments by scientists on the dangers of fallout: "Besides being poorly in- formed, the public has been confused by disagreements among scientists regarding the biological danger of present and anticipated radiation levels from fallout. The public is accustomed to associating science with truth and is dismayed that scientists appear to find the truth about fallout so elusive" (Commoner 1958, p. 1024; emphasis added).

The political experiences of Commoner and some of his colleagues suggested two important motivations for their efforts to make public claims about scientific information: (1) If anyone could interpret scientific information (say, a presidential candidate), scientists' opinions on the uses of science could conceivably become superfluous, and (2) attention was increasingly being drawn to multiple interpretations of scientific evi- dence-certainly not a desirable state of affairs for a profession that relies more so than others on the presentation of unanimity on rules, methods, and interpretations.

Commoner first sought to use the Social Aspects of Science Committee of the AAAS to formalize a program through which scientists provided information to the public. Yet, this committee did not go far enough for

Commoner's political tastes; he wanted scientists to become more en

gaged in demonstrating the limitations of science in solving social prob-

lems and to actively show how science had been used for "polluting"

political purposes. The committee, however, viewed the involvement

with public political concerns as incompatible with science. They instead

advocated finding ways to foster the "public appreciation" of science as

a social good (Commoner 1958, p. 1028; Lewenstein 1991, p. 22; Wolfle

1989, p. 235).

As a result, Commoner and his colleagues at Washington University founded their own organization devoted to providing information to the public about the health and environmental effects of atomic fallout. At its official founding in April 1958, CNI included 33 individuals, including 12 professors, four physicians, and a number of public figures from the St. Louis political community (CNI 1958). Other local fallout information groups were formed over the next five years in 20 other areas.6 In 1963, these groups joined forces as Scientists' Institute for Public Information, an organization whose raison d'Ctre was the provision of scientific infor- mation to the public (SIP1 1964).

SftP and the American Physical Society.-The same resistance on the part of a professional association occurred in the efforts of physicists to fold their political concerns into the American Physical Society (APS). In the fall of 1967, Charles Schwartz, a professor of physics at the University of California, Berkeley, petitioned APS to allow members to initiate a vote on any issue of concern to the APS, with an eye toward allowing members to vote on taking a public stand against the Vietnam War ("APS to Consider" 1967). In a letter to the membership urging that the APS be concerned with public issues, Schwartz wrote: "Certainly one of the easiest ways to destroy the integrity of the society would be to turn it into a debating club open to every political issue of the day. . . . At the other extreme we must recognize the absurdity of complete inno- cence. . . . Such statements as 'We are only concerned with physics as physics' are simply nonsense. . . . At present it too often happens that the 'public opinion of physicists' emerges from sources quite remote from the actual majority of our colleagues" (Schwartz 1968).

The amendment was hotly debated; no other subject received as much coverage as this issue over the next few months. Indeed, no issue in the history of Physics Today received as much attention in the letters column.

These locations were New York City; Berkeley, Calif.; Cleveland; Fairfield County, Conn.; Hartford, Conn.; Missoula, Mont.; New Haven, Conn.; northern New Jersey; Newark, N.J.; Palo Alto, Calif.; Philadelphia; Pittsburgh; Kalamazoo, Mich.; To- peka, Kans.; Bethesda, Md.; Washington, D.C.; Rochester, N.Y.; and Chicago.

American Journal of Sociology

Some argued vehemently against the amendment, on the grounds that it would be incompatible with the professional advancement of scientists via APS. As well, the issue of the public presentation of a disunified scientific community emerged as a theme of concern to scientists: "It would be unwise and uncalled for to jeopardize the purely scientific na- ture ofAPS and the harmony between its members by introducingpolitics in any form and of any denomination. Let those who must begin their own society" (Oertel 1968; emphasis added).

Even those who protested against the war were against this use of the APS: "To establish my credentials, I am an adamant 'extremist' on the war in Vietnam. I have demonstrated against the administration's policy, have spoken at public meetings against it, have signed resist petitions. . . . Nevertheless I believe the APS should remain pure. There should be an organization of physicists whose purpose involves only phys- ics" (Saletan 1968; emphasis added). In June 1968, APS members re- jected the amendment by a margin of nearly three to one, with 55% of the members voting ("State and Society" 1968).

But the issue of scientists' political relationship to the rest of American society was still open for debate; physicists argued that the 1970 APS meeting planned for Chicago should be moved as a result of the behavior of the Chicago Police Department at the 1968 Democratic National Con- vention (the American Sociological Association had moved its meeting). The APS leadership, however, declined to do so, setting off another round of debate among physicists.

As a result of the intractability of APS, at the New York meeting of APS in February 1969, Charles Schwartz, Martin Perl, a professor of physics at Stanford, Marc Ross, a professor at the University of Michi- gan, and Michael Goldhaber, a postdoctoral fellow at the Rockefeller Institute, announced the "formation of a new organization of scientists, dedicated to vigorous social and political action." The call to organize drew nearly 100 people, and, at the end of the meeting, 30 people had agreed to become local organizers for a new group called Scientists for Social and Political Action, later to be known as Science for the People (Goldhaber et al. 1969).

UCS and MIT.-A similar dilemma faced the students who were the original founders of the Union of Concerned Scientists. They could not convince either President Nixon's science advisor, Lee A. DuBridge, nor any group representing MIT to take a stand against the war in Vietnam nor to undertake any investigation of the role of MIT and scientists in making the war possible (SACC 1969).

In the fall of 1968, like many other college campuses across the coun- try, MIT was the scene of an increasing number of antiwar protests, fueled in part by the stepped up bombing of North Vietnam. On the MIT campus, protest events centered around the University's role as a provider of weapons and surveillance systems that were used against the North Vietnamese. For two weeks that same fall, MIT's role in the Vietnam War was heightened by the presence on campus of an AWOL soldier, who served as a focal point for discussions about the war. Among the participants in these discussions and protests were four graduate students-Jonathan Kabat, Joel Feigenbaum, Alan Chodos, and Ira Ru- benzahl (Allen 1970, p. xi; Nelkin 1971)-who formed an organization called Science Action Coordinating Committee (SACC) to protest both MIT's involvement in the production of weapons and the government's use of science for military purposes.

SACC sought to investigate the relationship between MIT and the Department of Defense and to propose ways of weakening or eliminating that relationship. In practice, this would mean MIT was abandoning its main source of financial support and prestige: government monies that were used to develop military and other material technologies. Not sur- prisingly, MIT faculty were not supportive of such changes: "The stu- dents had another agenda . . . which was to move on to MIT itself, attacking the existence of the I-Lab [the Instrumentation Lab, a weapons laboratory on campus that was largely funded by the Department of Defense] and classified research" (interview with Low, June 13, 1991).

At the same time that they were concerned over the attacks on MIT, however, some faculty, including Low, were concerned that the close tie between science and the now-under-attack state undermined the view that science was a force of progress (MIT had historically been more dependent on funds from the Department of Defense than any other American university [Leslie 19931): "By their [UCS scientists'] linkage to this abusive government, Institute faculty were undermining their own institutionalized relations to the public as scientists and engineers who produce knowledge for the general benefit of humankind. Instead they were producing knowledge that threatened to hasten its demise" (Dow- ney 1988, p. 236).

The war in Vietnam and MIT's involvement with the military were not the only reasons for faculty involvement; the development and de- ployment of the antiballistic missile (ABM) over the objections of scien- tists, President Nixon's proposals to cut basic research budgets, and the revelation that the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation were still blacklisting scientists with liberal and radical politi- cal views were all important in prompting scientists to take political action (Allen 1970; Cahn 1971; Nelkin 1971). In short, some of these faculty believed that science could and should be used for better ends-

but not by changing MIT. As a result of their differences with SACC

and their unwillingness to make changes in MIT's ties to the state, faculty

formed their own organization, UCS.

On March 4, 1969, SACC and UCS sponsored a one-day research stoppage during which faculty and students stopped work and held dis- cussions on social responsibility in science and the link between science and the military. This activity took place not only at MIT but on approxi- mately 25 other U.S. campuses as well (Allen 1970; Nelkin 1971). It did not meet with unanimous approval from scientists at MIT or other campuses: some scientists actively spoke out against the work stoppage on the grounds that it mixed the political and the scientific; most scientists did not apparently participate.

Since professional and academic organizations proved to be much less flexible than activist scientists had hoped, some activist scientists tried to fold science into existing political organizations but to no avail. Richard Lewontin of SftP, then a faculty member at the University of Chicago, attempted to persuade the New University Conference to incorporate the politics of science into its agenda but with little success (interview with Lewontin, March 20, 1991). At MIT, Students for a Democratic Society were also highly suspicious of the political motivations of the science students who were organizing protests on college campuses: "Student discontent on the M.I.T. campus is now largely centered around what can loosely be termed 'the misuse of science.' What is it with regard to these programs [at MIT] that constitutes 'misuse' of science? The misuse of science does not result from a lack of concern by individual scientists, but consists in the use of science to serve U.S. imperialism" (MIT SDS 1969; emphasis in the original).

Likewise, Barry Commoner's attempts to use UNESCO to further his project also failed. He contacted Gerald Wendt of the UNESCO Publications Center about a little known journal, IMPACT of Science on Society, which Commoner hoped to use as a vehicle for the discussion of the social responsibility of scientists. Wendt replied in a letter, "I must say that Impact has had very few American authors. . . . It is . . . because of the State Department regulations that require 'clearance' of an author before he is invited to write a manuscript. In practice it is most uncomfortable to have a man investigated by the F.B.I. when he has no idea what it is all about, and to invite him to write an article only after he has been cleared" (Wendt to Commoner, February 13, 1957; Commoner Papers, box 435).

Thus, in their first attempt to draw scientists into a new political role, activist scientists found themselves at a dead end. Members and leaders of existing professional associations were unwilling to engage in overtly political activities, but political organizations were not willing to embrace scientists either. As a result, some scientists chose to form new organiza- tions that were independent of existing professional and political organi- zations. In doing so, founders permitted the continuation of the organiza- tions that were widely viewed as "strictly objective" representatives of their members' interests. This meant that the organizational representa- tion of one of the dual imperatives-disinterest and interest-was kept intact. Because of this, professional organizations were spared interaction with messy, nonscientific political issues, thereby ironically reinforcing the idea that science itself was apolitical. In Latour's (1987) terms, by creating these organizations, professional organizations came to represent the "inside," where science is produced and where scientists work, while public interest science organizations face the problems of the "outside" world.

KEEPING SCIENCE AND POLITICS APART

Avoiding the Examination of the Political Bases of the Content and

Practice of Science

Science is powerful to the extent that its practitioners can convince others that their conclusions and methods are untainted by their own interests or those of vested parties (Ezrahi 1990; Epstein 1995; Mulkay 1974; AAAS 1962, p. 5). In contrast, political activity requires a very different stance, in which participants make fundamentally moral decisions, often in a partisan contentious fashion that reveals very different values among contenders (Ezrahi 1990; Moore and Clemens 1994). Entering the public, political realm posed serious problems for scientists because it suggested that multiple interpretations of evidence were possible among scientists, undermining the claims of scientists to universal standards of interpreta- tion. It did so because, at first, public interest science organizations them- selves criticized other scientists (including members of their own organi- zation in the case of SftP), for having tainted "pure science" with partisanship. If this had continued, it would have shown that scientific interpretations and questions are shaped by patrons and by the interests of scientists themselves. The solution to this dilemma, adopted by all three organizations, was to avoid close scrutiny of the actions of scientists themselves and to focus on the "misuse" of science by nonscientists. In doing so, they avoided any close examination of the practices of science and of the ways in which sponsorship may affect problem choices and data interpretation.

At first, public interest science organizations did explicitly criticize the political views of other scientists. This is well illustrated by the early experiences of CNI. CNI claimed that Edward Teller's scientific inter-

pretations of the relative safety of atomic fallout were suspect because he helped create the hydrogen bomb and thus had a vested interest in arguing that atomic fallout was not harmful. In response, Teller attacked CNI member Edward U. Condon's claim that fallout was dangerous, claiming that it was politically motivated and suspect scientifically be- cause Condon had been investigated by the House Un-American Activi- ties Committee (HUAC). Condon was forced to reply to this attack in a letter to the publisher of the St. Louis Globe Democrat, "You say that I 'was once described by a House Committee as the "weakest link in America's security chain." ' . . . [J. Parnell Thomas, chair of HUAC] never backed up that charge with any evidence despite repeated promises to do so. . . . I was given at that time two complete loyalty hearings under Truman procedures and completely cleared" (Condon to R. H. Amberg, December 11, 1960; Commoner Papers, box 435). It is also clear that the emerging picture of CNI as a "partisan" group was quite disturbing as they reformulated their strategy to avoid this perception in the future: "Since CNI, in all its public statements and published mate- rial has been scrupulously careful not to take a position on policy, this image [of CNI as partisan] may arise from: a) the nature of our informa- tion. . . . It makes people uncomfortable. It raises questions in their minds about government policy, b) [our committee] was founded by peo- ple who were and are deeply concerned with the dangers of the military energy. This may be confused with actual policy on military uses" (CNI 1958~).

This problem also occurred in Science for the People in debates over the place of women in the organization and as subjects of science. As the antiwar movement wound down, the women's movement was picking up steam, drawing off members of SftP. The overlap between SftP and the women's movement made it easy for some of the SftP women to connect their identity as women with their identity as scientists: "A plan- ning committee [to deal with issues of sexism, racism, and elitism] started to form, but it soon became clear to a few of the women involved that what was really needed was not a theoretical discussion but instead a vehicle for women to get together on the basis of our common experiences as women, in science, in the Left, and in Science for the People. So that's what we're doing . . . so many needs are being expressed, that we are amazed we didn't do it sooner" (Axelrod and Crocker 1974).

In 1970, a group of women members of the New University Conference (some of whom were also members of SftP) wrote How Harvard Rules Women. This pamphlet focused on the subordinate role of women in sci- ence and, more significantly for the fate of the women in the organization, on the masculine bias in the content of science. What they were charging was much more subversive than the group's anticapitalist orientation, for the authors were arguing that the content of science was biased toward a masculine agenda: "At Harvard as elsewhere, but at Harvard more influ- entially than elsewhere, male chauvinism affects medical policy by its im- plicit assumption that the female reproductive apparatus is an 'extra' that may be optionally omitted from consideration of the body's problems" ("How Harvard Rules Women" 1970, p. 47).

Later, women in SftP organized a session on women in science at the AAAS and, in 1974, edited a special issue of Science for the People on women in science in which they identified women as peripheral and degraded subjects of science. For example, one author wrote that bring- ing a feminist perspective to science (in itself heretical to usual views of objective practitioners) would involve "love and identification with the object of study" and would result in a decrease in "the gap between scientist and nonscientists . . . in direct proportion to the acceptance of women" (Arditti 1974, p. 31).

In suggesting that the group ought to address the relationship between the people who engaged in science and scientific knowledge, feminist scientists suggested that their very own ranks were tainted by "nonobjec- tive" criteria. Science for the People was not as receptive to feminist critiques; many women from the group began to work on issues related to science and women through women's organizations, particularly because there were numerous other organizational options for acting on women's issues during this period.

Attacks by nonmembers on the dangers of mixing interestedness and objectivity were also typical. For example, in responding to H. Bentley Glass's suggestion that biologists find ways to share their information with the public and to make their work socially relevant, one scientist commented that the tension between partisanship and detachment were not as easily achieved as Glass might think: "'Our first responsibility as biologists,' says Glass, 'is really to be biologists.' But also, 'our funda- mental obligation is the stern duty to teach-to spread as widely as possible . . . comprehension of the bases of scientific civilization.' The possibility of conflict between detachment and evangelism is ignored" (Hollander 1969).

These kinds of accusations were seriously threatening to the political power of science as well. Claims cannot be used as "facts" if they are exposed as mere claims by showing their "nonscientific" bases. And if public interest science organizations could accuse others of producing mere claims and not facts, other scientists could accuse them of doing so too, potentially undermining the source of scientists' claim to political and social utility: their ability to produce "facts."

Responses

Scientists negotiated this tension by turning organizational attention away from examinations of the actual practices and practitioners of sci- ence (since, after all, the particular practitioner should not make any difference according to popularly held understandings of science) toward the provision of "neutral" facts to citizens and other worthy groups. This outward focus meant that scientific knowledge could be treated with a particular epistemological prestige: as undisputed fact, not as opinion. While claims to be serving the public interest are important for all profes- sionals, they are crucial for scientists, whose political and professional legitimacy depends on a widely accepted vision of nonpartisanship. Thus, Barry Commoner wrote, "But there is, I believe, no scientific way to balance the possibility that a thousand people will die from leukemia against the political advantages of developing more efficient retaliatory weapons. This requires a moral judgment in which the scientist cannot claim a special competence which exceeds that of any other informed citizen" (Commoner 1958, p. 1025).

After being stung by accusations of partisanship, CNI moved away from advocating any political position, attempting instead just to stick to the provision of "facts": "CNI informs interested laymen as well as scientists of facts relating to important science-based public issues through its periodical, Nuclear Information, through a national press service, and through appearances of CNI scientists on national radio and television programs" (CNI 1963). Their earliest work was in providing information about the environmental and human hazards of atomic fall- out to nonscientists in American cities:

Lacking the necessary technical information, the citizen is increasingly unable to make the social and moral judgements on modern public issues which are required if he is to perform his duties of citizenship and con- science. This bestows a heavy responsibility on the scientist, which the Institute believes is best met under the following precepts:

In order to reach responsible judgements on public issues arising from science and technology, the citizen must have the relevant sci- entific facts and understand their implications. Scientists, as custodi- ans of technical information, have an obligation to bring such infor- mation to their fellow citizens in understandable terms with due regard for scientific objectivity. With respect to the resultant value judgments, scientists have no greater or lesser competence than other informed citizens and ought not to arrogate such decisions to them- selves. (SIP1 1964, p. 3)

The group later provided information about the environment to the pub- lic through the publication of Environment magazine-considered the bible of environmental activists during the late 1960s-as well as through

an ongoing series of tracts on the "facts" about air and water pollution

that were made available to those who requested them.

Most revealing, however, of the efforts of public interest science orga- nizations to avoid close examination of the practices of science was Com- moner's presidential candidacy in the 1980 election. Commoner was seen by Alan McGowan, who was the administrative director of SIPI, as a political liability. McGowan and others in SIPI felt that the organiza- tion's main mission was to curry favor with citizens, who ultimately controlled the purse strings of science. To do so, SIPI should provide only "neutral facts," not political opinions as Commoner advocated, because they threatened to divide scientists and to undermine citizen confidence in science. Commoner also felt that SIPI (like the AAAS Social Aspects of Science Committee in the late 1950s) did not go far enough. As a result, Commoner was ousted from SIPI (interviews with Com- moner, June 15, 1991, and McGowan, March 12, 1991).

Obfuscating the connections among scientific knowledge, political sys- tems and the views of particular scientists even further was SIPI's cre- ation, in late 1979, of the Media Resource Service, which put journalists in contact with scientists who could comment as "experts" on specific issues. SIPI functioned as a buffer between scientists and journalists, and journalists formed a buffer between science and the public. In doing so, attention was drawn toward the provision of facts, not toward the messy world of the production of those facts (SIPI 1980).

The National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, which required envi- ronmental impact statements and public hearings on any federal activity that could have an impact on the environment, and other wide-ranging regulation over the next two decades helped to institutionalize the prac- tice of criticizing the uses of science because it often required "objective" scientific information to be brought to bear on political issues (Ebbin and Kaspar 1974; Fairfax 1978; Fox 1985; Lilley and Miller 1977). New legislation, including the Clean Air Act, and the Clean Water Act, was created, and new agencies and court rulings, such as the Environmental Protection Agency and Calvert Cliffs Coordinating Committee v. Atomic Energy Commission (which made it possible for citizens to make claims about the harm done from nuclear power plants under the auspices of NEPA), changed the political requirements for citizen access to the politi- cal system.

One of the central features of much of this new legislative activity was that it permitted the intervention of individuals and groups but only in limited ways. Citizens could now make claims that they were or could be harmed by the activities that were to be regulated. But one of the de facto requirements for demonstrating harm was the presentation of technical evidence by "bona fide" experts-typically, Ph.D. scientists

who had published refereed articles in a particular area (Ebbin and

Kaspar 1974; Jasanoff 1990; Walsh 1988). The ability to make use of

such regulation rested on having (1) the access to and the use of expert

information and (2) the legitimation provided by credentialed experts.

The UCS in particular took advantage of these changes. They implored other scientists to assist them in identifying the ways in which science was "misapplied" by nonscientists: "Misuse of scientific and technical knowledge presents a major threat to the existence of mankind. Through its actions in Vietnam our government has shaken our confidence in its ability to make wise and humane decisions. . . . We therefore call on scientists and engineers at MIT, and throughout the country, to unite for concerted action and leadership: Action against dangers already un- leashed and leadership toward a more responsible exploitation of scien- tific knowledge" (Allen 1970, p. xxii). Later, they provided nuclear safety information to over 125 antinuclear groups and were involved in legal intervention with at least 10 nuclear power plants in the United States, including Seabrook, Maine Yankee, and Oyster Bay (UCS Papers, 1977 fund-raising letter, no. 83-44, box 34). In 1974, Ralph Nader on behalf of the antinuclear group Consolidated National Intervenors mailed letters to thousands of potential and actual antinuclear groups and individuals suggesting that the most important thing that groups could do to fight nuclear power was to "get the facts" from UCS. At the Consolidated National Intervenors Critical Mass conference in 1974, in which over 100 small, locally-oriented antinuclear groups participated and in which UCS occupied a prominent place on the program, reliance on scientists for information and legitimation in legal battles was highly emphasized (UCS Papers, no. 83-45, box 35).

Even the most radical group, Science for the People, focused on the uses made of science, rather than the content of science or the biases of practitioners of science: "Thus the scientist serves only to rationalize the existing order. His expertise is used merely to further already established goals. . . . Then what is the solution? We must fundamentally change the present social and economic system. . . . We scientists are workers. Our only hope in preventing the further misuse of science is to join with all other workers to bring about a radical change in the thinking, goals and economic structure of this country" (SSPA 1969, emphasis in the original). The source of the problem, according to SftP, then, was various structural features of the country that were related to the "misuse of science," not that science itself was a political product. Even when work- ing on behalf of groups like the Black Panthers, SftP worked to provide scientific information to African-Americans or to provide technical assis- tance through the Technical Assistance Program (TAP):

Newsreel had a car fixed and the Boston Chapter of the Black Panther Party received information and technical assistance. A new and free com- munity medical clinic needed electrical power because those inveterate servants of the city-the city fathers and the Edison Company-found some excuse for denying them power (ha!). TAP helped in obtaining, op- erating, and maintaining an electrical generator. TAP also assisted the Panthers in evaluating, purchasing, and maintaining a truck and in setting up outdoor sound and communications equipment. . . . In every instance technical helpers explain to the people receiving what they are doing and why. ("Technical Assistance" 1970, p. 7)

Rather than explicitly rejecting the claim that scientific interpretations, evidence, or subjects were sullied by particularistic interests, public inter- est science organizations turned attention toward other activities-toward the uses made of science by other groups, thus deflecting attention away from scrutiny of the internal workings of science. As students of complex organizations and science have shown (Kuhn 1970; March and Simon 1958; Simon 1976), the organization of attention is central to un- derstanding what people within organizations do. Selective attention can also operate to direct the attention of those outside organizations as well. For scientists, then, this meant identifying a set of villains that could convincingly be construed as nonscientists and attacking their misreading or misuse of science. In this way, scientists never directly faced the charges of the subjectivity of science; they directed attention elsewhere.

All three groups defined their constituency as "the public," not any particular, organized beneficiary, who could potentially contest the claims made by scientists. By defining themselves as servants of the public, rather than servants of the public via the state, which had caused problems for them at the height of the anti-Vietnam War movement, their activities were now to be taken as unmediated by the interests of partisan groups. In reality, of course, all three groups did have more specific constituencies. SIP1 eventually served the information needs of environmentalists and, later, science journalists. UCS served the needs of those contesting the safety of nuclear power plants, and SftP served a variety of social movement groups on the left. But all three groups avoided any explicit focus on these constituencies and instead portrayed their actions as services to a quite general patron, the public and the greater social good.

BOUNDARY WORK REVISITED

The presentation of a unified group of "objective" scientists devoted to serving the public may be seen as an accomplishment by scientists that is facilitated by the creation of organizations. Divisions among scientists are serious threats to the continuity of science since its power depends on the continued demonstration that scientific training eliminates the polluting influences of other social and political commitments, permitting unanimity on issues of method, subject, and interpretation. During the period under study, American scientists were divided over the appro- priate mix of interest and disinterestedness and over who should decide on the mix-the public? scientists? which scientists? At the same time, they faced intense scrutiny from vocal, active, and powerful social move- ment groups (some of whose members were scientists) that blamed science (and its cousins, technology and rationality) for economic, social, and political problems. In part this dissensus came from changes in the politi- cal climate that permitted the revelation that scientists had a multitude of political interests that were shaped by institutional location, genera- tion, and discipline. I have tried to show that these interests are not fixed and permanent and that differences among scientists may be exacerbated when historical circumstances, such as political protest, new sponsors, and the influx of large numbers of members culled from a variety of new social backgrounds, call into question taken-for-granted assumptions about science and the appropriate role for scientists in social life.

In the 1950s and 1960s, the claim that science was composed of a unified group that agreed upon the basic features of the scientific en- deavor without regard for the social characteristics of claimants was threatened. The exposure of divisions had the potential to undermine one of the main underpinnings of science as a culturally powerful activity: that the characteristics of the natural world can be agreed upon by di- verse groups of people. That claim was never ultimately undermined, however, because scientists were able to avoid serious internal fragmen- tation, to maintain the power to make decisions about science, and to avoid examining how political ties affect the production of knowledge, not just its uses.

The resolution of these problems was in part effected by explicitly harnessing science in the service of a broad, public constituency (as op- posed to what can be identified as a clearly "interested" or partisan constituency, such as the military in the late 1950s and 1960s). In doing so, scientists were effectively suggesting that they acted "in the interests of the public," not on their own behalf or for an identifiable sponsor. In embedding these claims in organizations that now had ongoing linkages to various groups of nonscientists, they were able to actually demonstrate in public settings their commitment to serving the public without undermining the source of their real political utility: the claim that scientific evidence is untainted by political interests. By abandoning efforts to change existing organizations, scientists could simultaneously keep intact organizational representations of their interests as scientists (such as pro-

fessional organizations) and as political actors (such as social movement

organizations). In this way, the organizational representations of science

as pure and disinterested and politics as interested remain, while a new,

hybrid organizational representation of action that is neither purely scien-

tific nor purely political is created. Ultimately, the boundaries between

science and politics were redrawn to suggest that the content of science

was untainted by subjectivity but that scientists had a moral obligation

to serve the public good through the provision of scientific information.

As sociologists of science have shown, practical problems of action may be resolved in part by making specific kinds of rhetorical claims and by organizing around objects as subjects of legitimate action. But organizations are another, related way in which these problems may be resolved as well. It is not that organizations are in fact separate from rhetoric or objects of action, but that they make routine, formal, and public particular material activities and claims while simultaneously di- recting attention away from other activities and claims. For SIPI, UCS, and SftP, this meant that their formation would allow them to make claims about the uses made of science by other groups, which was not viewed as an appropriate routine action for professional associations, and turn attention away from how sponsorship and individual political views shape scientific knowledge. That all three groups survived into the 1990s suggests that this solution was successful for over two decades in promot- ing new linkages to the public over which scientists had substantial control.

The research presented here has, however, left a number of questions unanswered that may profitably be examined by other students of science and scientists. What effects have such organizations had on science and on the public? Have these organizations indeed been important in provid- ing the public with information that nonscientists have found useful and practical, or do they operate in a symbolic fashion? Why have some disciplines historically been more likely to engage in public activity than others?

Perhaps more significantly, no explanation has been provided for why these forms of organization were able to persuade others (other scientists and nonscientists), nor why UCS and SIPI still exist while SftP collapsed. The longevity of an organization (or form of organization) is largely deter- mined by the ability to obtain resources such as members and monies (McCarthy and Zald 1973, 1977; Pfeffer and Salancik 1978), to provide a product to those who need it, and to fit with prevailing ideas about legitimate forms of organization (DiMaggio and Powell 1983). Evidence suggests that all three of these factors were in place and can thus help explain the survival of this form of organization: private donations to nonprofits rose after 1970 (Jencks 1987); what scientists produced was useful to citizens and the state, who increasingly needed scientists to participate in the politics of industrial regulation, as I suggested above; and public interest groups in general were on the rise after 1970, giving legitimation to this form of organization. However, the role of these factors in promoting the success of this particular solution deserves more systematic attention than space in this article allows and should be con- sidered in future research. These questions are crucial to understanding how science and formal political behavior are linked.

Boundary work between science and other kinds of activities and be- tween scientists and other social groups is undertaken in struggles among scientists and between scientists and nonscientists to determine who within and outside of science may determine what kinds of information and products are produced and for which constituencies these goods are produced. The tools that are used to negotiate these contests include rhetoric, objects, and organizations, which may be used to differentiate science, to join it with other activities, or to do both simultaneously.

APPENDIX

Interviews

Interviews with the following persons were referred to in this article. In addition, in connection with a larger project, 32 interviews with other members of SftP, SIPI, and UCS have been conducted. These persons were drawn from a list of 108 founders and five current leaders of the three organizations for whom a current mailing address could be located. A copy of the interview schedule and transcriptions of the interviews are available upon request from the author.

Commoner, Barry. Scientists' Institute for Public Information. June 15, 1991. Center for the Study of Natural Systems, New York. Kotelchuck, David. Science for the People. March 13, 1991. Hunter College, New York. Lewontin, Richard. Science for the People. March 20, 1991. Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass. Low, Francis. Union of Concerned Scientists. June 13, 1991. MIT, Cam- bridge, Mass. McGowan, Alan. Scientists' Institute for Public Information. March 12, 1991. New York.

SftP Survey

In 1991, I conducted a survey of the founders of SftP (response rate = 79%), which included the following questions:

Science

At the time of your original involvement with SftPISESPA,

  1. What was your age?
  2. Were you a graduate student?
  3. Were you a faculty member? At what rank?
  4. Who was your employer, or what school did you attend?
  5. What was your main scientific field?

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