For example, the tetrafluoroethylene cylinder that gave rise to Teflon was meant to be used in the preparation of new refrigerants. The investigators were interested in some natural phenomenon, sometimes evident, sometimes conjectured, sometimes predicted by theory. Development of gene splicing by Cohen and Boyer produced, among other products, better insulin. All of these discoveries are detailed in this booklet Science and Serendipity. In other words, without continuing fundamental research, the opportunities for new technology are eventually going to shrink.
Some of the other topics in the brochure on Science and Serendipity, that were included to document further the importance of basic research, concerned several examples of the impact of chemistry on medicine. There are, in fact, countless such examples. Concerns also have been raised that science is being practiced for its own sake, and that it would be better for the nation if research were oriented more toward specific industrial applications.
Indeed, a majority of scientists are intimately involved in the study and treatment of common human diseases and collaborate closely with clinical scientists. Industries involved in biomedical development have been remarkably efficient in commercial application of treatment modalities based on discoveries resulting from fundamental research funded primarily by the federal government. It is essential to provide adequate federal support for a broad base of fundamental research, rather than shifting to a major emphasis on directed research, because the paths to success are unpredictable and subject to rapid change.
Although its primary aim is to fill the gaps in our understanding of how life processes work, basic research has borne enormous fruit in terms of its practical applications. We recognize that during a time when resources are constrained, it may be tempting to direct funding to projects that appear likely to provide early practical returns, but we emphasize that support for a wide-ranging portfolio of untargeted research has proven to be the better investment.
This provides the broader base of knowledge from which all new medical applications arise. Decisions regarding what research to fund must be based on informed judgments about which projects represent the most meritorious ideas. FASEB continues with a discussion of economic benefits and a number of examples of basic research-driven medical breakthroughs.
Views of public officials
Technologies derived from basic research have saved millions of lives and billions of dollars in health care costs. The significance of these basic research-derived developments, however, transcends the lowering of medical costs: the lives of children as well as adults are saved, and our citizens are spared prolonged illness or permanent disability. FASEB continues with thirteen examples of contributions by basic research to the diagnosis and treatment of numerous diseases, most of them very serious.
Up to this point, we have been concerned with basic science and its support by government funds in a modern society. Although there is also some support by private institutions established for that purpose and also some industrial investment in generally product-oriented basic research, the greatest amount of support by far comes from public funds. One of the ways that the public is repaid for their support is through the technology that fundamental research generates.
I suspect that the economic return from technology alone more than compensates for the monies expended for the entire basic research effort. I have no estimate, however, of whether my suspicion is true or not. It should be noted that the public gains much more than the economic value of technology. It gains culture, comfort, convenience, security, recreation, health and the extension of life. What monetary value can be put on the triumphs of health over debilitating or fatal disease? The monetary value has to be higher than the purely economic savings that were noted above in the 26 examples referred to in the FASEB Bulletin.
Technology has been, in fact, closely associated with the evolution of man starting with tools, clothing, fire, shelter and various other basic survival items.
Sample Essay on Technology and Science
The co-evolution persists and, since basic science is now very much a part of developing technologies, the term co-evolution of science and society which is used at times very much implies the co-evolution of both basic science and industrial science with society. An important question arises concerning how basic scientific discoveries eventually lead to new technologies and what that may mean to the rational support of basic research and the future of science and technology in the developed and developing world.
There are great uncertainties in the process that starts with basic research and ends with an economically successful technology. The successful discovery of a new development in research that appears to have technological significance does not ensure the economic success of technologies that may be based on it. He notes that uncertainties derive from many sources, for example, failure to appreciate the extent to which a market may expand from future improvement of the technology, the fact that technologies arise with characteristics that are not immediately appreciated, and failure to comprehend the significance of improvements in complementary inventions, that is inventions that enhance the potential of the original technology.
Rosenberg also points out that many new technological regimes take many years before they replace an established technology and that technological revolutions are never completed overnight. They require a long gestation period.
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Initially it is very difficult to conceptualize the nature of entirely new systems that develop by evolving over time. New technologies need to pass an economic test, not just a technological one. What does this mean with regard to government managed research? The burden of much of what I said is that we frequently simply do not know what new findings may turn out to be relevant, or to what particular realm of human activity that relevance may eventually apply.
Indeed, I have been staking the broad claim that a pervasive uncertainty characterizes, not just basic research, where it is generally acknowledged, but the realm of product design and new product development as well — i. Consequently, early precommitment to any specific, large-scale technology project, as opposed to a more limited, sequential decision-making approach, is likely to be hazardous — i. Evidence for this assertion abounds in such fields as weapons procurement, the space program, research on the development of an artificial heart, and synthetic fuels. Rather, it would seem to make a great deal of sense to manage a deliberately diversified research portfolio, a portfolio that will illuminate a range of alternatives in the event of a reordering of social or economic priorities.
Rather, the criticism is aimed at the single-mindedness of the focus on nuclear power that led to a comparative neglect of many other alternatives, including not only alternative energy sources but improvements in the efficiency of energy utilization. These areas are not well covered by corporate investment, yet are vital to the long-term economic strength of the country. The article goes on to say that the affection for strategic research in the United States may prove short-lived.
Having pinned its reorganization of research on the doctrine of science for wealth-creation, the government appears now to be more conscious of the problems it has undertaken to solve. After more than a decade of needless damage-doing, that would be only prudent. When governments discover in the course of seeking radical reorganization that the best they can do with their parts of the research enterprise is to cherish them, the lessons are likely to be remembered. If the outcome in the research community is a more vivid awareness of how much the world at large looks to research for its improvement, so much the better.
In discussing the future of science including industrial science and society, it is valuable to recount some of the important points that emerged from the previous discussion. As a consequence of recognizing the economic benefits that derive from the development of novel, successful technologies, governments have been attempting to direct research, supported with public funds, toward subjects that are perceived as national priorities. The views of scientists, a distinguished economist, some industrial leaders and an editorial comment in a distinguished science journal provide very strong indications that governmental management of goal-oriented research is replete with uncertainties and pitfalls and, although well-motivated, may cause serious damage to the scientific culture.
This, of course, would defeat the original purpose, since the co-evolution of science and society is a very-well documented and irrefutable phenomenon. He recommended utilizing crowdsourcing infrastructure for financing such innovative projects, in addition to financing from structural governmental funds, business angels and venture capital. The discussion raised the role of institutional, including trade unions and policy factors, including easy and generous welfare benefits contributing to unemployment in developed economies.
The current market structure with high concentration of financial institutions leads to overvaluation of financial assets particularly speculative capital hedge funds, future options and others derivatives , which often are low taxed and an undervaluation of human capital, which is usually highly taxed. The technological factors affecting the labor market such as robotization, ITC and e-business were also mentioned. The Academy made significant progress at Trieste in advancing the discussion beyond the level of critiquing the deficiencies in current economic theories.
It became clear that the current failures and apparent limitations of our economic system are the result of faulty, limiting dogma, which all too often passes for rational scientific theory. Therefore, the first requirement is a willingness to re-examine premises to determine whether they arise from inherited notions, power structures and prevailing values or from economic fundamentals.
Liberating our thought from past conventions is the most important step toward founding a true science of economics. Orio Giarini began by challenging several such premises, especially the notion of market equilibrium, which he described as a tautology rather than a real market phenomenon.
He stressed that economy is in a constant process of evolution and the equilibrium dynamics could at most be applied to a particular moment in time. Moreover, current economic doctrine evolved in the context of the Industrial Revolution when transactions involved discrete products sold at a specific point in space and time. Today, three-quarters of all transactions involve the delivery of services, most of which are consistent of vast delivery systems such as education and healthcare, where the cost incurred over the entire life cycle of the system often cannot be accurately known until long after the actual point of delivery.
This raises fundamental questions relating to the notion of economic value. Robert Hoffman pointed out that there is no intrinsic relationship between price and value. Value cannot be measured monetarily. Price is what we make. The market is particularly poor at capturing the value of natural resources and the value to future generations.
220 Great Topics for Essays on Science and Technology
In the modern knowledge-based service economy, the notion of value must be extended to take into account utilization value over time. The boundaries of economics need to be extended in several directions to encompass new dimensions. First, the boundary between the monetarized and non-monetarized sectors is constantly shifting. We arbitrarily assign value to that alone which involves monetary exchange. Second, the boundary between politics and economics is purely arbitrary, for there would be no such thing as market were it not for the legal and regulatory framework within which exchange takes place.
Third is the paradoxical boundary posed by uncertainty.
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Ostensibly, the role of economy is to manage risk and reduce uncertainty. Yet, the uncertain is also the source of all human creativity, new invention, and future potential. Like the Internet, all future discovery and wealth creation will emerge from the uncharted unknown. Fourth, valid economic science must fully take into account the relationship between production, social welfare, ecology and ethics.
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