What difference does it make who pays for science?
Some might say none. If scientists seek to discover fundamental truths about the world, and they do so in an objective manner using well-established methods, then how could it matter who's footing the bill? History, however, suggests otherwise. In science, as elsewhere, money is power. Tracing the recent history of oceanography, Naomi Oreskes discloses dramatic changes in American ocean science since the Cold War, uncovering how and why it changed. Much of it has to do with who pays.
After World War II, the US military turned to a new, uncharted theater of warfare: the deep sea. The earth sciences – particularly physical oceanography and marine geophysics – became essential to the US navy, who poured unprecedented money and logistical support into their study. Science on a Mission brings to light how the influx of such military funding was both enabling and constricting: it resulted in the creation of important domains of knowledge, but also significant, lasting, and consequential domains of ignorance.
As Oreskes delves into the role of patronage in the history of science, what emerges is a vivid portrait of how naval oversight transformed what we know about the sea. It is a detailed, sweeping history that illuminates the ways in which funding shapes the subject, scope, and tenor of scientific work, and it raises profound questions over the purpose and character of American science. What difference does it make who pays? The short answer is: a lot.
1 The Personal, the Political, and the Scientific
2 Seeing the Ocean through Operational Eyes: The Stommel-Arons Model of Abyssal Circulation
3 Whose Science Is It Anyway? The Woods Hole Palace Revolt
4 Stymied by Secrecy: Harry Hess and Seafloor Spreading
5 The Iron Curtain of Classification: What Difference Did It Make?
6 Why the Navy Built Alvin
7 Painting Projects White: The Discovery of Deep-Sea Hydrothermal Vents
8 From Expertise to Advocacy: The Seabed Disposal of Radioactive Waste
9 Changing the Mission: From the Cold War to Climate Change
Conclusion: The Context of Motivation
Sources and Abbreviations
"Had I known then what I have learned from Oreskes’s new book, I would have been a better Scripps director."
– Charles Kennel, former director, Scripps Research Institute
"Oreskes's timely, clear-eyed, and extensive history serves as a powerful reminder in a time when our oceans and basic science are under attack: we must defend scientific truth."
– Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, Rhode Island
"Science on a Mission is a subtle, human picture of science at war, both hot and cold. Focusing on three vastly important institutes of oceanography, Oreskes tracks how the demands of international conflict have shaped the discipline. In fascinating detail, she explores the discovery of the deep ocean currents and their dynamics; in another precisely documented section, she illuminates the military origins of the ‘pure science’ bathysphere Alvin. With engaging prose and scientific grasp, Oreskes gives us a rich and well-told history of how the navy’s engagement redefined the field, ushering in central discoveries of modern oceanography while hiding its secret-cloaked depths."
– Peter Galison, Harvard University
“With her characteristic but rare combination of philosophical and historical insight, and her sharp eye for the politics beneath the surface, Oreskes has skillfully interpreted the wide-ranging legacies of oceanography and brought them into our understanding of scientific – and political – debates of the present day."
– Katharine Anderson, York University
"Oreskes has given us a profound, sweeping history of the social and political construction of Cold War science. Her analysis lends fascinating insight into the role of the war economy in the creation of American oceanography and raises complex questions about scientific integrity, intellectual autonomy, and the difference between pure and tainted science."
– Matthew England, New South Wales University