A sceptical society

Beyond this, the ambiguity of any scientific expertise is rooted in a bipolarisation between experts and policymakers. This intimate relationship has long ignored a third party: society as a whole. The traditional and comfortable assumption of the inherently beneficial nature of science is no longer accepted as true. ‘There is concern in society that scientific advances have become double-edged; and there is also  a  fear that science-based technology is running out of control,’ says Oxford (UK) University’s Jerry Ravetz (1).

‘Instead of the pure curiosity of the discoverer, the direction of this  sort of  science is to a great extent motivated by  power and profit, with eventual societal benefit mediated through those primary goals. Also, this new sort of science is not immune to manipulation and abuse, be it the neglect of  unpopular lines of research, the suppression of unwelcome results, the pressuring of regulatory authorities, or the victimisation of critics’.

What do they mean? by the highlighted phrase. In particular what is the grammatical structure "be it". I understand all the words, but I don't understand how "be it" links "the neglect of unpopular lines of research" to "this new sort of science".

Source: research*eu No.62-February 2010 (The magazine of the European Research Area)

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  • 2
    Hello Jack. You have quoted a part of text (twice) and asked "what does it mean" What is the problem that you have with this text. Do you know the meaning of the words "new", "science", "immune"? Is there a problem with the grammar? (is "be it" causing a problem?) Unless you tell me exactly what your difficulty is I won't be able to help solve it.
    – James K
    Dec 27 '21 at 10:41
  • Yeah, must be with the grammar, "be it" is causing a problem to understand
    – Jack H
    Dec 27 '21 at 10:43
  • I've edited to help you. But Please add the source of the quote, apparently it is an article called "the sceptical society"... but where was this article published. Is it available online. Who wrote it?
    – James K
    Dec 27 '21 at 11:00
  • 1
    Thank you for editing. I'm feeling a little uncomfortable because I'm new to the platform
    – Jack H
    Dec 27 '21 at 11:09
  • 1
    Would whether it be be easier to understand? The phrases listed afterwards are examples of what the author calls 'manipulation and abuse'. Dec 27 '21 at 11:10

This is a form of the subjunctive. In particular the subjunctive has caused an inversion of the verb and subject.

The meaning is "..., whether it is the neglect ... , or the victimisation of critics"

This is rare and formal. It is now only used in a few fixed phrases.

Be he friend or foe ... = "Whether he is a friend or a foe"

You see it is used to emphasize that there are two or more possibilities.

An example from our sister site:

Therefore, for every ten Peregrines colour-ringed, at least one is likely to be resighted, be it dead or alive. Ed Drewitt; Urban Perigrines (2014)

So in your example the list of things following "be it" are possible examples of type of manipulation of this new sort of science.

  • Thank you very much
    – Jack H
    Dec 27 '21 at 11:21
  • And one more curious question, why do you think they gave exactly that picture in the article above?
    – Jack H
    Dec 27 '21 at 11:22
  • The picture of the Matroska dolls? Your guess is as a good as mine! There is a little "protestor" that fits in the "scientist" that fits in the "politician". I suppose it is about protesting citizens influencing scientists to influence decision makers.
    – James K
    Dec 27 '21 at 11:25

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