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Science policy is an area of public policy usually concerned with the funding of science and with the regulation of technology produced by scientific research. Science policy is the intersection between scientific research and public policy.

The funding of science has three major venues: educational institutions, governments, and philanthropic organizations.

Most of the leading political issues in the United States have a scientific component. For example, renewable energy, Stem Cell Research etc. Businesses have a comparable function, but since they usually do it for profit, the goals, methods and justifications are very different. Science policy for business is usually called research and development.

Most developed countries usually have a specific national body overseeing national science (including technology and innovation) policy. In the case developing countries many follow the same fashion.

Examples of national science, technology and innovation policy bodies in developing countries:
Thailand: National Science and Technology Policy Committee

Almost all people agree that "science should be supported". Beyond that, consensus quickly breaks down. There are several common positions:

Contents

Utilitarian science policy

Utilitarian policies prioritize scientific projects more highly if they reduce large amounts of suffering for many people. The pursuit of pleasure or luxury is far less supported, but nearly everyone supports the reduction of painful and debilitating diseases. The perfect example is arthritis research, which is well-supported.

Utilitarian policymakers characteristically advertise the numbers or people that can be helped by some research stratagem. In democracies, utilitarian science is an easy sell to the elected officials and foundation boards that control distribution of funds.

Research is more likely to be supported when it costs less and has greater benefits. Utilitarian research is characteristically rather unexciting for scientists because it often pursues incremental improvements rather than dramatic advancements in knowledge, or break-through solutions, which are more commercially viable. This influences the failure of some projects.

Basic science policy

Basic science attempts to stimulate breakthroughs. Breakthroughs often lead to an explosion of new technologies and approaches. Characteristically, basic science is cheap. One selects bright, energetic (usually young) theoreticians, and teams them with clever, practical people to test their theories. Once the basic result is developed, it is widely published; however conversion into a practical product is left for the free market.

This model does not automatically bring improvements. For instance, in a command economy the results of basic research are often not fully utilized. The most famous example is the Soviet Union. It supported huge numbers of scientists but their achievements were utilized mainly for military and space programs.

A particular problem is that the military research of even the freest of free market countries is structured similarly to a command economy. Many governments have developed risk-taking research and development organizations to take basic theoretical research over the edge into practical engineering. In the U.S., this function is performed by DARPA.

Scholastic conservation

This is the policy of the impoverished. Rather than invest in new science, the policy is to efficiently teach all available science to those who can use it. In particular, the goal is not to lose any existing knowledge, and to find new practical ways to apply the available knowledge.

The classic success stories of this method occurred in the 19th century U.S. land-grant universities, which established a strong tradition of research in practical agricultural and engineering methods. More recently, the green revolution prevented mass famine over the last thirty years.

The focus, unsurprisingly, is usually on developing a robust curriculum and inexpensive practical methods to meet local needs. A particular problem with this approach is that there's now a continuing brain drain from impoverished countries (which often have quite good, though small, universities) to the wealthy countries.

Monumental science

This is a policy in which science is supported 'for science's sake,' i.e. basic research. This designation covers both large projects, often with large facilities, and smaller scoped research that does not have obvious practical applications and are often overlooked. The classic justifications of policymakers and scientists speak to knowledge of lasting worth and the basic building blocks of science. While these projects may not always have obvious practical outcomes, they provide education of future scientists and advancement of scientific knowledge.

Practical outcomes do result from many of these science programs. Sometimes these practical outcomes are foreseeable and sometimes they are not. A classic example of a monumental science program that led to a practical outcome is the Manhattan project. In the 1940s the Manhattan project was primarily a scientific, not engineering, venture to create a sustained nuclear reaction, ie an atomic bomb. An example of a monumental science program that produces unexpected practical outcome is the laser. Coherent light, the principle behind lasing, was first predicted by Einstein in 1916, but not created until 1954 by Charles H. Townes with the maser. The breakthrough with the maser led to the creation of the laser in 1960 by Theodore Maiman. The delay between the theory of coherent light and the production of the laser was partially due to the assumption that it would be of no practical use.[1]

Technology development

This is a policy in which science is not supported, so much as engineering, the application of science. The emphasis is usually given to projects that increase important strategic or commercial engineering knowledge.

The classic justifications of such policymakers speak to increased defensive or commercial opportunities.

The most extreme success story is doubtless the Manhattan Project (that developed nuclear weapons). Another remarkable success story was the "X-vehicle" studies that gave the US a lasting lead in aerospace technologies.

These exemplify two disparate approaches: The Manhattan Project was huge, and spent unblinkingly on the most risky alternative approaches. The project members believed that failure would result in their enslavement or destruction by Nazi Germany.

Each X-project built an aircraft whose only purpose was to develop a particular technology. The plan was to build a few cheap aircraft of each type, fly a test series, often to the destruction of an aircraft, and never design an aircraft for a practical mission. The only mission was technology development.

A number of high-profile technology developments have failed. The US Space Shuttle failed grotesquely to meet its cost or flight schedule goals. Most observers explain the project as over constrained: the cost goals too aggressive, the technology and mission too underpowered and undefined.

The Japanese fifth generation computer systems project met every technological goal, but failed to produce commercially-important artificial intelligence. Many observers believe that the Japanese tried to force engineering beyond available science by brute investment. Half the amount spent on basic research rather might have produced ten times the result.

See also

Footnotes

  1. ^ Suplee, Curt (1999) Physics In The 20th Century Harry N. Abrams Inc, 58-63.

Science policy is an area of public policy concerned with the funding of science, often in pursuance of other national policy goals such as technological innovation to promote commercial product development, weapons development, health care and environmental monitoring. Science policy thus deals with the entire domain of issues that involve the natural sciences. Much like public policy being concerned about the well-being of its citizens, science policy's goal is to consider how science and technology can best serve the public.

Contents

US Science Policy

With respect to the U.S. Federal Budget, scientists working in the United States are concerned with the amount and distribution of funding for research and development (R&D), which has a portion in both the defense and nondefense budgets. However, only a small percentage of the overall federal budget is allocated to R&D. According to the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the R&D budget is mostly allocated to defense spending.[1] The other Agencies that are allocated funding out of the R&D budget are the National Institutes of Health (NIH), National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), National Science Foundation (NSF), Department of Energy (DOE), and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). There are many avenues in which scientific research is carried out: national labs, universities, research institutes and industry.

Most of the leading political issues in the United States have a scientific component. For example, renewable energy, Stem Cell Research etc. Businesses have a comparable function, but since they usually do it for profit, the goals, methods, justifications and time horizon are different. Science policy for business is usually called research and development.

Most developed countries usually have a specific national body overseeing national science (including technology and innovation) policy. In the case developing countries many follow the same fashion.

History

The first President's Science and Technology Advisor was James R. Killian, appointed in 1958 by President Eisenhower after Sputnik created the urgency for the government to support science and education. President Eisenhower realized then that if Americans were going to continue to be the world leader in scientific, technological and military advances, the government would need to provide support. After World War II, the US government began to formally provide support for scientific research and to establish the general structure by which science is conducted in the US.[2] The foundation for modern American science policy was laid way out in Vannevar Bush's Science - the Endless Frontier, submitted to President Truman in 1945. Vannevar Bush was President Roosevelt's science advisor and became one of the most influential science advisors as in his essay, he pioneered how we decide on science policy today.[3] He made recommendations to improve the following three areas: national security, health and the economy. The same three focuses we have today.

Creation of the NSF

The creation of the National Science Foundation, although in 1950, was a controversial issue that started as early as 1942, between engineer and science administrator Vannevar Bush and Senator Harley M. Kilgore (D-WV), who was interested in the organization of military research. Senator Kilgore presented a series of bills between 1942-1945 to Congress, the one that most resembles the establishment of the NSF, by name, was in 1944, outlining an independent agency whose main focus was to promote peacetime basic and applied research as well as scientific training and education. Some specifics outlined were that the director would be appointed and the board would be composed of scientists, technical experts and members of the public. The government would take ownership of intellectual property developed with federal funding and funding would be distributed based on geographical location, not merit. Although, both Bush and Kilgore were in favor of government support of science, they disagreed philosophically on the details of how that support would be carried out. In particular, Bush sided with the board being composed of just scientists with no public insight. When Congress signed the legislation that created the NSF, many of Bush's ideals were removed. It illustrates that these questions about patent rights, social science expectations, the distribution of federal funding (geographical or merit), and who (scientists or policymakers) get to be the administrators are interesting questions that science policy grapples with.

Funding Programs

The programs that are funded are divided into four basic categories; basic research, applied research, development and facilities and equipment.[4]

Basic Research

Basic science attempts to stimulate breakthroughs. Breakthroughs often lead to an explosion of new technologies and approaches. Characteristically, basic science is cheap. One selects bright, energetic (usually young) theoreticians, and teams them with clever, practical people to test their theories. Once the basic result is developed, it is widely published; however conversion into a practical product is left for the free market.

This model does not automatically bring improvements. For instance, in a command economy the results of basic research are often not fully utilized. The most famous example is the Soviet Union. It supported huge numbers of scientists but their achievements were utilized mainly for military and space programs.

A particular problem is that the military research of even the freest of free market countries is structured similarly to a command economy. Many governments have developed risk-taking research and development organizations to take basic theoretical research over the edge into practical engineering. In the U.S., this function is performed by DARPA.

Applied Research

Applied research seeks to gain knowledge and understanding for a specific need.

Development

This is research to apply scientific data towards the development of devices, materials, systems, or methods for applications that will benefit the greater society.[4]

Future of Science Policy

Congress if realizing that the current national policy is not as concise and easy to determine priorities for funding scientific research. The goal is to be able to include government and all the institutions involved in research to be a part of the conversations concerning science, technology and engineering. As of right now, the criticism is that there is not a "science policy" but rather a "budget policy", stifling the ability for the nation to move forward in the field of science.[3] Congress is looking to the scientific community to participate and to submit their thoughts on the rising challenges for the community, nation and planet so to address these needs in scientific policy.

Specific Science Policy Programs

Utilitarian science policy

Utilitarian policies prioritize scientific projects that significantly reduce suffering for many people. The pursuit of pleasure or luxury is less supported, but nearly everyone supports the reduction of painful and debilitating diseases. The perfect example is arthritis research, which is well-supported.

Utilitarian policymakers characteristically advertise the numbers or people that can be helped by some research stratagem. In democracies, utilitarian science is an easy sell to the elected officials and foundation boards that control distribution of funds.

Research is more likely to be supported when it costs less and has greater benefits. Utilitarian research is characteristically rather unexciting for scientists because it often pursues incremental improvements rather than dramatic advancements in knowledge, or break-through solutions, which are more commercially viable. This influences the failure of some projects.

Scholastic conservation

This is the policy of the impoverished. Rather than invest in new science, the policy is to efficiently teach all available science to those who can use it. In particular, the goal is not to lose any existing knowledge, and to find new practical ways to apply the available knowledge.

The classic success stories of this method occurred in the 19th century U.S. land-grant universities, which established a strong tradition of research in practical agricultural and engineering methods. More recently, the green revolution prevented mass famine over the last thirty years.

The focus, unsurprisingly, is usually on developing a robust curriculum and inexpensive practical methods to meet local needs. A particular problem with this approach is that there's now a continuing brain drain from impoverished countries (which often have quite good, though small, universities) to the wealthy countries.

Monumental science

This is a policy in which science is supported 'for science's sake,' i.e. basic research. This designation covers both large projects, often with large facilities, and smaller scoped research that does not have obvious practical applications and are often overlooked. The classic justifications of policymakers and scientists speak to knowledge of lasting worth and the basic building blocks of science. While these projects may not always have obvious practical outcomes, they provide education of future scientists and advancement of scientific knowledge.

Practical outcomes do result from many of these science programs. Sometimes these practical outcomes are foreseeable and sometimes they are not. A classic example of a monumental science program that led to a practical outcome is the Manhattan project. In the 1940s the Manhattan project was primarily a scientific, not engineering, venture to create a sustained nuclear reaction, ie an atomic bomb. An example of a monumental science program that produces unexpected practical outcome is the laser. Coherent light, the principle behind lasing, was first predicted by Einstein in 1916, but not created until 1954 by Charles H. Townes with the maser. The breakthrough with the maser led to the creation of the laser in 1960 by Theodore Maiman. The delay between the theory of coherent light and the production of the laser was partially due to the assumption that it would be of no practical use.[5]

Technology development

This is a policy in which science is not supported, so much as engineering, the application of science. The emphasis is usually given to projects that increase important strategic or commercial engineering knowledge.

The classic justifications of such policymakers speak to increased defensive or commercial opportunities.

The most extreme success story is doubtless the Manhattan Project (that developed nuclear weapons). Another remarkable success story was the "X-vehicle" studies that gave the US a lasting lead in aerospace technologies.

These exemplify two disparate approaches: The Manhattan Project was huge, and spent unblinkingly on the most risky alternative approaches. The project members believed that failure would result in their enslavement or destruction by Nazi Germany.

Each X-project built an aircraft whose only purpose was to develop a particular technology. The plan was to build a few cheap aircraft of each type, fly a test series, often to the destruction of an aircraft, and never design an aircraft for a practical mission. The only mission was technology development.

A number of high-profile technology developments have failed. The US Space Shuttle failed grotesquely to meet its cost or flight schedule goals. Most observers explain the project as over constrained: the cost goals too aggressive, the technology and mission too underpowered and undefined.

The Japanese fifth generation computer systems project met every technological goal, but failed to produce commercially-important artificial intelligence. Many observers believe that the Japanese tried to force engineering beyond available science by brute investment. Half the amount spent on basic research rather might have produced ten times the result.

See also

Footnotes

  1. ^ Koizumi, Kei. "Federal R&D in the FY 2009 Budget: An Introduction". AAAS. http://www.aaas.org/spp/rd/09pch1.htm. Retrieved 20 August 2010. 
  2. ^ Neal, Homer; Smith, Tobin; McCormick, Jennifer (2008). Beyond Sputnik. The University of Michigan Press. 
  3. ^ a b Ehlers, Vernon (16). [Expression error: Unexpected < operator "The Future of U.S. Science Policy"]. Science 279: 302. doi:10.1126/science.279.5349.302a. 
  4. ^ a b Clemins, Patrick. "R&D in the President's FY 2011 Budget". http://www.aaas.org/spp/rd/presentations/. Retrieved 20 August 2010. 
  5. ^ Suplee, Curt (1999) Physics In The 20th Century Harry N. Abrams Inc, 58-63.







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