September 24, 2004

The Scientific Research Conundrum

Christy Davies has an interesting article “WHY SHOULD CHILDREN HAVE TO LEARN SCIENCE?” which takes a critical look at one of the educational truths of our age:

“There are those with a gift for science or a capacity for enduring boredom who will go on to become what the Russians call specialists but they will not profit from it. We are always being told that there is a shortage of scientists yet their price remains low. Perseverance leads to poverty. Some scientists become rich from their discoveries but most of them find that they are less well rewarded than the patent lawyers who corral their inventions or the marketing executives who entice the customers into using them. Perhaps that is as it should be. In the Soviet Union where great emphasis was placed on science education scientists were respected and relatively well paid and the economy collapsed from an inability to innovate.”

It often seems that the incentivisation of scientific research leads not to more innovation but stasis and that markets only really function well in relation to the product itself. As the article alludes, from a market perspective the decision to pursue scientific research is seldom a rational on e– at lest from a purely economic perspective. Thus anyone pursuing a scientific career is unlikely to be someone who responds rationally to economic incentives. Thus the imposition of any economic incentive program in relation to scientific research is likely to have little or no effect. Perhaps a more telling question to would be to ask under what circumstance it might also have a detrimental effect – as perhaps it did in Russia. Perhaps the cause might be that the offering of “rewards” selects the wrong sort of people to become of scientists?

Posted by wardx107 at September 24, 2004 5:04 PM