The Social Weight Behind Research and its Possible Impact

Having experienced, at least in some small way, the nature of higher education, I’ve come to understand how the significance of politics in research has come to dominate fields once dedicated to improving our grasp of both natural and social sciences. Unfortunately, this is no longer merely a plight on the social sciences, the softer side of academic pursuit, but even the natural sciences are prey to the political gymnastics involved in acquiring research grants and other monies earmarked for specific research proposals. 

The most unfortunate consequence of this problem would appear to be the lack of research being carried out on broad subject areas. It creates an environment in which academic outliers and budding theorists are afraid to risk invention and genesis of new ideas or innovative approaches to old problems. This creates an environment in which thought is chilled, rather than stimulated. And this problem applies to broader areas which affect research for neurodiverse conditions. 

If we think about the larger funding apparatuses behind research behind neurodiverse conditions, they are most often associated with a position on either side of political neurodiversity platforms. For example, pharmaceutical companies have a great deal of business to be made on proliferating a “cure” narrative of autism, as do foundations who raise money on the premise that these diseases and disorders exist only when we have defeated the obstacles that prevent a cure. This completely undermines any alternative view of neurodiverse conditions which might otherwise admit that there are social ailments that prevent the neurodiverse from participating in neurotypical society. Such a narrative discounts those who desire recognition for their unique and valuable differences. 

It’s hard to pinpoint where academia might have been steered into such a business of obsequiousness, backroom handshakes, and corporate publications, however, changes could be made to rescue our education and research universities from falling into the same pit as other corrupt institutions. Research and statistics are valuable weapons in the hands of anyone with enough money to make that research say what they paid for; it can mean legislation which prohibits people from having their basic human rights recognized. 

While this is equally important as an ethical issue in research of any kind, here I am mainly referring to the implications of legislation which might impact the treatment of patients experiencing neurodiverse conditions. With developments in neuroscience and genetics close to mapping the origins of many forms of neurodiversity, it would seem that a cosmopolitan approach to the social issues involved in these discoveries is more important than ever. To really understand what these differences mean, we have to ensure that observations made about them are presented in a way that is fair to those on whom these findings will have the most impact. It may be that the rigors of ethical scrutiny at universities may no longer be up to the task of preventing conflicts of interest in the results presenting by many studies.

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