Law versus science



Publication Details

Martin, B. (2020). Law versus science. In D. M. Allen & J. W. Howell (Eds.), Groupthink in science: greed, pathological altruism, ideology, competition, and culture (pp. 115-126). Switzerland: Springer.


Laws and legal systems can have a constraining effect on scientific research and harm the public interest. The overt use of the law against research often has a smaller impact than the indirect effects of laws. Examples from three areas — defamation, euthanasia, and intellectual property — illustrate how laws can hinder research. When researchers are threatened with legal action for defamation, this can discourage research in their topic area. Laws against voluntary euthanasia have an indirect effect on research, such as by making it difficult to study euthanasia where it is illegal and hindering research into methods of do-it-yourself euthanasia. Copyright protection is so excessive that it inhibits creative work building on previous ideas, while patents of pharmaceutical drugs enable such huge profits that research into non-patentable alternatives is neglected. Options for responding to legal constraints on research include acquiescence, law reform, and resistance.

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