Advocacy and open science in the UK: case studies in the autism wars

Mickey Keenan, Karola Dillenburger

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Individuals diagnosed with autism experience a wide spectrum of support needs and it comes as no surprise that opinions differ as to the best way to provide necessary supports. Some very articulate self-advocates argue that societal acceptance of neurodiversity is the key issue. These views have clashed with those of parents who advocate for access to evidence-based interventions for their profoundly autistic children. The consequences of these kinds of differing opinions are so far-reaching that the term “Autism Wars” was coined. In this paper, we argue that while obviously acceptance of differences between individuals is important, a measure of acceptance should be reflected in an openness to different scientific traditions, especially if they offer support and hope.

“Open Science” holds much promise in many fields, but its influence cannot be taken for granted when it comes to evidence-based support practices that are grounded in the science of behavior analysis. Benefiting from open science in autism research requires well-developed advocacy skills. To illustrate, we use case studies from the United Kingdom, where advocates of open science have met with intractable obstacles.

Original languageEnglish
JournalBehavior Analysis in Practice
Early online date28 Nov 2023
Publication statusEarly online date - 28 Nov 2023


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