Science policies for reducing societal inequities

Edward Woodhouse, Daniel Sarewitz

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

54 Scopus citations


In an effort to move social justice issues higher on R&D policy-making agendas, we ask whether new technoscientific capacities introduced into a non-egalitarian society tend disproportionately to benefit the affluent and powerful. To demonstrate plausibility of the hypothesis, we first review examples of grossly non-egalitarian outcomes from military, medical, and other R&D arenas. We then attempt to debunk the science-inequity link by looking for substantial categories where R&D is conducive to reducing unjustified inequalities. For example, R&D sometimes enables less affluent persons to purchase more or better goods and services. Although the case for price-based equity proves weaker than normally believed, R&D targeted towards public goods turns out to offer a reasonable chance of equity enhancement, as do several other potentially viable approaches to science policy. However, major changes in science-policy institutions and participants probably would be required for R&D to serve humanity equitably.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)139-150
Number of pages12
JournalScience and Public Policy
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2007

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Public Administration
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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