Photos of magazines from the Science for People archives

The explosion of countercultural radical politics in the 1960s motivated some scientists to open their research up – in both theory and practice – to influences and cultures beyond academia’s ‘ivory tower’. Connections between their roles as objective scientists became more explicitly related to their personal feelings about the consequences of their profession beyond academia.

An example is the British Society for Social Responsibility in Science (BSSRS), which evolved from a 1968 campaign against university research on chemical and biological weapons. Though each member would likely have defined themselves as socialist, this terminology will have been used to describe a broad spectrum of political values and motivations.

In this talk I explore how the notion of ‘socialist libertarianism’ influenced BSSRS’s visions for science and society, and the complex and intrinsic challenges that this ideological perspective demands. How did radical scientists address questions such as: in a socialist society how should fundamental decisions be made about how science is funded, organised, practiced, and used; where should state regulation come in; what are the roles and responsibilities of the individual; how is the concept of individual freedom realised in relation to a socialist science? What lessons can we learn?

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