“Romantic myths about creative loners can’t be allowed to overshadow the fact that it’s a big collective enterprise…a multidisciplinary team, a system designed to maximize discovery,” explained Isaacs, who happens to oversee one such facility, Chicago’s Argonne National Lab, the federal government’s first science and engineering research lab.
The problem is, the myth of the lone genius toiling away still reigns supreme in the eyes of ordinary Americans and politicians alike. And so policymakers neglect the links in the innovation chain that come after that first Eureka moment. The possibilities often fall by the wayside, leaving scientific breakthroughs in the lab instead of in the hands of consumers or society at large.
That was the upshot of the New America Foundation’s event on the future of innovation, research and development, where Isaacs spoke before an audience packed into a narrow conference room on Monday afternoon. Too often, he argued, the conversation about R&D in Washington ends up stopping at that first phase: funding basic research aimed at letting scientists make their discoveries in peace.
Capitol Hill’s conception of research relies on a notion that’s practically deistic, argued Sarewitz, a professor at Arizona State University. “You put in money, and good things happen,” And that faith has kept R&D budgets relatively steady in recent decades, even during times of federal belt-tightening.
But what gets forgotten are the two “Ds” that come after R&D— “demonstration and deployment,” which are essential to applying basic research to real-life problems and creating commercial products, argued DotEarth’s Andy Revkin, who’s also a fellow at the Pace Academy for Applied Environmental Studies.
That’s where the scientists believe the real support is lacking—not only from the government, but also from the private sector, which has scaled back its most ambitious applied research in recent decades. During the 20th-century heyday of innovation, American corporations had their own massive R&D labs, with the resources, capacity, and business interest to commercialize their findings—Xerox Park, IBM and the famous AT&T Bell Labs. Bell researchers invented everything from the transistor and the laser to information theory, which made possible the development of the Internet.
I got a little carried away with that excerpt – there is some more at the link. If one person gets an idea, a unique idea – they deserve credit. And in free market societies they usually get it. Though, Edison is a good example of what happens with ideas. Edison did not invent the light bulb. It had been around for years in one form or another. He and his team of lab assistants created an affordable light-bulb with a filament – which they happened on by accident – that burned for hundreds of hours until it needed replacement. If you read science news regularly – say a news aggregation site like Daily Science – when you look at the people involved in the findings there are usually several scientists ( frequently undergrad lab assistants can be unnamed contributors). Plus there will be an acknowledgement of organizations, examples might include the National Science Foundation or the U.S. Navy. The process of new discoveries is frequently both collaborative and cooperative. People who find things – make new discoveries do not appear out of nowhere. They are the products of the contributions to the sum of human knowledge made by others. As much as I admire the minds of Isaac Newton and Gottfried Leibniz, if they had not discovered calculus someone else would have. And would they had discovered calculus if they had not had good math educations from other mathematicians. God-like scientist inventors like Rand’s John Galt are fantasy. It is astonishing that people actually tale Galt as an example of how society, free markets or science works. Its like thinking Spider-man is a real person and if you wish hard enough you can have super powers too. Related to this, 32 Innovations That Will Change Your Tomorrow from NYT Magazine.
The Road to Filibuster Reform Lies in the Voters. There will be no filibuster reform because it takes a super majority of votes to change Senate rules. Both sides have reasons – good or bad – to keep things just as they are. I’m sure they can come up with some crazy math to say otherwise, but the majority of the country is left of center – yet generally conservative states like Wyoming (pop. 570,000) has as many Senate votes as California (pop. 38, 000,000). Thus we have a small faction of zealots who are governing rather than the majority, which is much more moderate.
5 Facts About The Massachusetts Economy Under Mitt Romney. You could pick a community college at random. Let everyone majoring in physics, economics, English Lit. or political science draw lots from a hat and end up with someone better at creating jobs than Romney. It is an election cycle and it is also another cycle in blind idolatry by the usual suspects.
The New Pornographers: Adventures in Solitude.