A radical and timely proposal for reinvigorating transformative scientific discovery.
So rich was the scientific harvest of the early 20th century that it transformed entire industries and economies. Max Planck laid the foundation for quantum physics, Barbara McClintock for modern genetics, Linus Pauling for chemistry--the list goes on.
In the 1970s, the nature of scientific work started to change. Increases in public funding for scientific research brought demands that spending be justified, a system of peer review that selected only the research proposals promising the greatest returns, and a push for endless short-term miracles instead of in-depth, boundary-pushing research. A vicious spiral of decline began.
In Scientific Freedom
, Donald W. Braben presents a framework to find and support cutting-edge, much-needed scientific innovation. Braben--who led British Petroleum's Venture Research initiative, which aimed to identify and aid researchers challenging current scientific thinking--explains:
- The conditions that catalyzed scientific research in the early 20th century
- The costs to society of our current research model
- The changing role of the university as a research institution
- How BP's Venture Research initiative succeeded by minimizing bureaucracy and peer review, and the program's impact
- The selection, budget, and organizational criteria for implementing a Venture Research program today.
Even in the earliest stages, transformative and groundbreaking research can look unrecognizable to those who are accustomed to the patterns established by the past. Support for this research can, in fact, be low risk and offer rich rewards, but it requires rethinking the processes used to discover and sponsor scientists with groundbreaking ideas--and then giving those innovators the freedom to explore.
First published in 2008, this new edition of Scientific Freedom
includes over 30 redesigned charts and figures and a new foreword by Donald Braben.
About the Author
Donald W. Braben is a scientist and author. From 1980 to 1990, he led British Petroleum's Venture Research program, for which he developed a radical, low-cost approach to finding and funding researchers whose work might redefine their fields. Of the dozens of projects supported by the program, many led to transformative discoveries. He has held positions at the Cabinet Office in Whitehall, the Science Research Council in London, and the Bank of England. He was awarded an Honorary Fellowship from the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology and the First Trust Bank Chair of Innovation at Queen's University Belfast. He currently holds an honorary position at University College London. He lives in the United Kingdom.