After Friday’s posting about Canada’s political parties and their science policies (in most cases, a lack of) imagine my surprise on finding out that the UK has enjoyed a Jan. 13, 2010 debate on science (I believe there’s another one coming up in March) featuring two shadow ministers and the current Minister for Science and Innovation. It’s organized by the Campaign for Science and Engineering in the UK (CASE). Thanks to the Pasco Phronesis blog for pointing the way.
I have watched about 1/3 of the video for the debate and, as you’d expect, the politicians are carefully avoiding specifics, still they are discussing science policy. The focus in the bits I watched was on funding and the role of science in ensuring the UK’s future global competitiveness. You can go here to find the debate video and articles and blogs about it.
Coincidentally, the US President’s Office on Science and Technology Policy (Jan.20.10 correction: the report was released by the National Science Board) has recently (Jan.15.10) released the Science Engineering Indicators (Jan.20.10 correction: Science and Engineering Indicators 2010). From the news item on Science Daily,
“The data begin to tell a worrisome story,” said Kei Koizumi, assistant director for federal research and development (R&D)in the President’s Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP). Calling SEI 2010 a “State of the Union on science, technology, engineering and mathematics,” he noted that quot; [sic]U.S. dominance has eroded significantly.”
In terms of R&D expenditures as a share of economic output, while Japan has surpassed the U.S. for quite some time, South Korea is now in the lead–ahead of the U.S. and Japan. And why does this matter? Investment in R&D is a major driver of innovation, which builds on new knowledge and technologies, contributes to national competitiveness and furthers social welfare. R&D expenditures indicate the priority given to advancing science and technology (S&T) relative to other national goals.
On other fronts, I’ve come across more discussion about the nanotechnology ‘narrative’ and the anniversary of Richard Feynman’s 1959 talk, There’s plenty of room at the bottom (first mentioned in this blog here and here). Richard Jones on his blog Soft Machines provides more depth to the story and suggests that the view which has K. Eric Drexler popularizing Feynman’s ideas (I had fallen into that camp) shortchanges Drexler. I must admit I did not recognize the importance of Drexler’s emphasis on biology in his vision in contrast with Feynman’s vision. You can read more about Richard Jones’ take on the matter here. I filched this link to yet another take on the matter (Feynman failed to recognize the importance of chemistry) from the comments section of Jones’ posting.
It can be tempting to view all this wrangling as a waste of time but somewhere in all of this is an attempt to make sense of how we understand and know things. Histories are important not because they tell us about the past but because they tell us how we got here.
Tags: bucky balls, Campaign for the Science and Engineering in the UK, CASE, Eric Drexler, games, nanotechnology history, nanotechnology narrative, Richard Feynman, Richard Jones, Science and Engineering Indicators 2010, science debate, UK, White House Office of Science and Technology Policy