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This week’s front page editor


Francesc Badia i Dalmases is Editor and Director of democraciaAbierta.

Constitutional conventions: best practice

Science is a social enterprise, influenced by the wider culture and values of its time. We explore the tension between natural and human sciences, and science’s impact on society.

Heartfelt rationality

The side effects of good intentions and tolerance can be more suffering. We must let our hearts set our goals, but use the mind to pursue them. Our former Editor-in-Chief, reflecting on rationality and the fallout of a TV-series. Archive: This article was first published on October 1, 2012.

Prohibiting autonomous weapons systems

They have been dubbed ‘killer robots’. Concerted international action is needed to prevent the emergence of weapons which could operate without meaningful human control.

Ebola and global health politics: an open letter

The human toll from the Ebola outbreak is all too evident. A more proactive global health policy is needed to avoid its repetition.

Could incapacitating chemical weapons start an arms race?

Chemical weapons are banned, aren't they? Well, maybe not quite all of them are ...


This sound installation was first performed at the 4th Athens Bienniale under the 'Value and Economy' theme heading. (Video, 20 minutes).

From utopia to dystopia: technology, society and what we can do about it

The superficial post-war dream that technology would solve the world’s social problems has transformed into a nightmare of electronically enabled global surveillance and suppression. Yet with consumer-oriented industries replacing the military as the main driver of innovation, citizens are acquiring tools through which they can co-ordinate their emancipation.

Rethinking security: from projecting power to preventing problems

The embrace of corporate partners by science and technology departments and the erosion of distinctions between the military and the police have been at the heart of disturbing security trends in the UK and elsewhere. The root causes of insecurity meanwhile go unaddressed.

Weather and humanity remain unpredictable

As a new IPCC assessment is being prepared, head climate scientist Rajendra Pachauri is an optimist - but human behaviour might be the hardest thing to predict. An interview.

Retake your privacy

The US can read your emails because you let them. Demand privacy – but take it back first.

India Burning

When the rice harvest season finishes in a few weeks, fields in India will turn black as farmers burn thousands of acres. This practice shows one of the failures of the Green Revolution, with devastating regional and global consequences. A food-security-obsessed India cannot ignore these issues for much longer.

Apple vs. Samsung: something doesn’t quite fit!

The patent war between Apple and Samsung made a great deal of headlines over the past weeks. This article argues that both have much to gain from this big fuss, while the losers seem to be consumers and patent law itself.

An HIV-free generation: human sciences vs plumbing

The top down medical bio-fix behind the new Global Plan for an AIDS-free generation will not work without shifting the status quo to include human rights and the science of phenomenology: that means talking to us, funding us and involving us, says Alice Welbourn

The death of a controversy?

Non-news about a "controversy" on life support, an inconsequential U-turn and the unfortunate fact that schadenfreude won't save the climate.

The right to know: women’s choices, Depo-Provera and HIV

As we enter the fourth decade of AIDS, we need to assert once again the importance of transparency, knowledge and autonomy in the introduction and distribution of technologies for prevention and treatment of the disease.

20, 2000 and 2: the three shadows of Facebook

The eternal campus of the global middle class; the solution to the injunction to love ones fellow; a riskless replacement to reality. You could not have designed Facebook better to opiate 21st Century occidentals

Proton collisions at the Large Hadron Collider – what’s in it for you?

The most expensive and advanced scientific instrument in human history is aiming to revolutionise our understanding of the universe. Ransom Stephen explains what precisely is happening and what outcomes can be expected

Nobel by association: beautiful mind, non-existent prize

The "Nobel prize for economics" is a fascinating story of how - as the global public was looking the other way - strategy and snobbery brought a symbolic currency to life. Yves Gingras tells it.

(This article was first published on 23 October 2002)

Disaster at the Sayano-Shushensky power station – a man-made apocalypse

Was the recent accident at the Sayano-Sushensky power station a disaster waiting to happen?  Krasnoyarsk scientist Yegor Zadereyev feels that it is no exaggeration to compare it with Chernobyl.

The Conditions of Quality by Tony Curzon Price

What conditions allow user-generated content to create quality? Listen to Carl Djerassi's talk with Tony Curzon Price

The conditions of quality

A lunchtime conversation with Carl Djerassi: what are the conditions under which emergent processes, like crowd-sourcing and user-generated content, will create quality? Listen to the Podcast (32 mins), or read and listen in parts.

The man who wants to live forever

Aubrey de Grey believes that a 60-year-old alive today may become the first 1,000-year-old human. And he is serious. Paul Miller & James Wilsdon profile a scorned but calmly defiant pioneer of the science of biogerontology.

The Galileo project: science, journalism, and Jupiter

In September 2003, the spacecraft Galileo disintegrated in Jupiter’s dense atmosphere, after fourteen years of measuring the planet’s satellites. A success? Yes, but also a cautionary tale of how the media misrepresents scientific work and achievement.

The Iraq weapons report: a review

The Iraq Survey Group has just published its interim report on the Saddam regime’s weapons programmes and capabilities. Ron Manley, a chemical weapons expert who oversaw the United Nations inspection operations in Iraq in the early 1990s, assesses it.

Small is dangerous? Schumacher, science, and social development

The promise of micro-technology as a tool of social progress is balanced by fear of its use to reduce freedom and widen global divisions. The benign if flawed vision of E.F. Schumacher still holds lessons for how a better social application of science can serve the interests of the world’s poor and the planet’s sustainability.

The European Union and genetic information: time to act

The principle of genetic testing of entire populations carries the great risk of putting the integrity of the individual in the service of commercial interests. The ensuing struggle for control of information cannot be resolved on the national level alone. Within the European Union, the tension between the internal market in services and harmonisation of national legislation reveals the urgent need for a European policy on genetic information.

A UK Biobank: good for public health?

Could GeneWatch UK be exactly the kind of ‘genetic union’ Mike Fortun advocated as a vehicle for ‘genomic solidarity’? Here, its deputy director focuses on the controversial Biobank UK, and questions its aims, cost, science and commerce. She makes the case for a democratic debate which alerts the public to the moral and political issues it raises, and helps find a way of reconciling scientific progress with citizens’ rights.

Iraq and chemical weapons: a view from the inside

In both the United States and Britain, there is passionate contest over the legitimacy and honesty of government attempts to justify war with Iraq – especially claims of the existence of active Iraqi chemical weapons programmes. In an interview of profound insight, the man responsible for chemical weapons destruction operations in Iraq from 1991-94 talks to Anthony Barnett and Caspar Henderson of openDemocracy about the true extent of Iraq’s capacity to produce, store and deliver weapons of mass destruction.

Towards genomic solidarity: lessons from Iceland and Estonia

How can the experiences of Iceland and Estonia in establishing national Genes Banks contribute to a global understanding of genes and ownership? An American life sciences historian recommends adopting the model of labour unions as a way to inform donors and public about all the variables of research and consent. Could Britain, with its strong union history and recent creation of the UK Biobank, be a pioneer of such ‘genomic solidarity’?

The Estonian Genome Project: a hot media item

The Head of Information of the Estonian Genome Project Foundation replies to Tiina Tasmuth’s critique and argues that those with ‘dissenting views’ are few while the majority of Estonians support the country’s Gene Bank project.

The new information ecosystem: Part 1: cultures of anarchy and closure

Part 1 of The new information ecosystem: cultures of anarchy and closure

Infectious: Sars in the world media

The rapid spread and social impact of the Sars virus make it a global political story as well as a medical one. But it is mediated differently across the world. openDemocracy’s world media monitor maps the coverage – from startling openness in the Vietnamese press, to the independence factor in Taiwan – amid worldwide uncertainties about security, business and travel.

India: facts, lies and GM potatoes

The GM potato, far from being the answer to India’s food security as has recently been argued, would displace the richest source of traditional protein in the sub-continent’s diet. Rather, it would intensify the problems already being suffered by the country’s small producers as a result of trade liberalisation policies.

The Estonian Gene Bank Project - an overt business plan

The Estonian Genome Project Foundation tried to build on the experience of Iceland’s innovative, contested genetic research project (analysed by Skúli Sigurdsson in openDemocracy). Did the small Baltic state learn from Iceland’s mistakes? A research fellow and close observer of the Estonian initiative tells the fascinating, melancholy story – which challenges the corporate interests involved to respond.

Sars and poverty - the missing argument

The World Health Organisation has been criticised for excessive caution over outbreaks of Sars (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) in Canada and elsewhere. But, argues Robert Walgate in an investigation of the key players, their action is entirely justified. The great remaining concern is not for countries with adequate health systems, but for what would happen if the virus runs loose in the poorest developing countries.

Behind every great woman there is an even greater man - or not? Marie Curie and her husband Pierre

Marie Curie and her husband Pierre are back to set an example for European identity. Sarah Dry pictures them in her new biography “Curie” and discusses their lives and work with fellow historian of science, Pierre Radvanyi.

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