Sheldon Krimsky, Science Profit Motivation Alert, Dies at 80

Sheldon Krimsky, a leading scholar in environmental ethics who has explored the links between science, ethics, and biotechnology, and who warned of the dangers posed by companies private company that underwrites and influences academic research, died on 23 April in Cambridge, aged 80.

His family said he went to the hospital to get checked out when he died and they don’t know the cause.

Dr Krimsky, who has taught at Tufts University in Massachusetts for 47 years, comprehensively warned of the growing conflicts of interest that universities face as their academic researchers. they accept grants of millions of dollars from corporate organizations such as pharmaceutical and biotech companies.

In his book “Science for Self-interest” (2003), he argues that the lure of profit has the potential to derail research and, in the process, undermine the integrity and independence of research institutions. University.

But his wide-ranging public policy work has gone far beyond highlighting the dangers inherent in the commercialization of science. As the author, co-author or editor of 17 books and over 200 journal articles, he has delved into many areas of science – stem cell research, genetic modification of food and the privacy of food. investment of DNA – and find ways to identify potential problems.

“He’s the Ralph Nader of bioethics,” Jonathan Garlick, a stem cell researcher at Tufts and a friend of Dr. Krimsky, said in a phone interview, referring to the human advocate. long-term consumption.

“He was saying, if we don’t slow down and pay attention to the critical checkpoints, once you let the genie out of the bottle, there could be irreversible harm and could last through generations,” added Dr. Garlick. “He wants to protect us from irreversible harm.”

In “Genetic Justice” (2012), Dr. Krimsky wrote that DNA evidence is not always reliable and that government agencies have created large databases of DNA that pose a threat to human freedom. by civil. In “The GMO Deception” (2014), edited with Jeremy Gruber, he criticized the agriculture and food industries for altering the genetic makeup of food.

His last book, published in 2021, is “Understanding DNA Ancestry,” in which he explains the complications of ancestry research and says that results from ancestry testing companies Different genetics may differ in their conclusions. Most recently, he has begun to explore the emerging topic of stem cell meat – meat made from animal cells that can be grown in a laboratory.

In fact, Mr. Nader had a long relationship with Dr. Krimsky and wrote the introductions to several of his books.

“There is really no one like him: stern, courageous and prolific,” Mr. Nader said in an email. “He tried to convey the importance of democratic processes in open scientific decision-making in many fields. He criticizes the dogma of science, saying that science should always leave options open for modification.”

Credit…Rowman & Littlefield Publishing House

Sheldon Krimsky was born on June 26, 1941, in Brooklyn. His father, Alex, is a house painter. His mother, Rose (Skolnick) Krimsky, was a garment worker.

Sheldon, known as Shelly, majored in physics and mathematics at Brooklyn College and graduated in 1963. He earned his Master of Science degree in physics from Purdue University in 1965. At Boston University , he obtained a Master of Philosophy in 1968 and a Doctor of Philosophical Science in 1970.

He is survived by his wife, Carolyn Boriss-Krimsky, a playwright, artist and author, whom he married in 1970; a daughter, Alyssa Krimsky Closey; a son, Eliot; three grandchildren; and one brother, Sidney.

Dr Krimsky began his association with Tufts in what is now known as the Department of Urban and Environmental Planning and Policy in 1974 and helped build it for decades. He also teaches ethics at Tufts University School of Medicine and is a visiting scholar at Columbia University, Brooklyn College, New York School, and New York University.

He began exploring conflicts of interest in academic research in the late 1970s, when he led a group of students investigating whether chemical company WR Grace contaminated a drinking water well in Acton, Mass. or not.

Dr. Krimsky has said that when the company learned that he was going to issue a negative report – The well was later designated a Superfund . site — one of its top executives asked the president of Tufts to bury the research and fire him. The President refused. But Dr. Krimsky wondered if the company was trying to interfere, and that led him to start studying how corporations, whether they contribute financially or not, seek to manipulate science.

Dr Garlick said: “He spoke the truth with authority. “He wants to give a voice to the skeptics and give a voice to the skeptics.”

Dr. Krimsky is a longtime proponent of what he calls “organized skepticism”.

“When the claim is made, you have to start with skepticism until the evidence is so strong that your skepticism disappears,” he told The Boston Globe in 2014. “You don’t start with science by saying, “Yes, I like this theory, and it must be true. ‘”

He was a member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and chaired the committee on scientific freedom and responsibility from 1988 to 1992. He is also a member of the Hastings Center, a research institute. bioethics in Hastings-on-Hudson, NY, and serves on the editorial boards of seven scientific journals.

When not working, he enjoys playing guitar and harmonica. He splits his time between Cambridge and New York City.

“Shelly never gave up hope for a better world,” Julian Agyeman, a professor in Dr. Krimsky’s department and its interim chair, said in a statement. Tufts obituary. “He’s an outstanding activist-campaigner-scholar.”

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