21 February 2014

Talk Today: Basic Research as a Political Symbol

Here in PDF are the slides from my talk today in Bonn. The talk was based on several works (see second-to-last slide) but this is the main one in PDF.

Comments welcomed!


  1. Very interesting topic!

    “More precisely, as a political symbol ‘‘basic research’’
    represents the identifications, expectations and demands of scientists, policymakers and the public about the role of science in society (Lasswell et al. 1952).”

    “Yet symbols matter. Institutions, mechanisms of accounting and organizations have all been developed around the concept of basic research and the accompanying theory of how science and society are related.”


    The above are two examples, of many, of the use of the term “society” within the paper. Society is abstract and hence only exists in an abstract world. Hence one can not benefit the abstract with “basic research”.

    On the other hand, if society as a concept indeed exists, then it exists in the concrete sense, in the form of the summation of free individuals making free individual decisions within a free market in an infinite series [Hayek’s extended order]. Which would lead one to think basic research does not benefit society, rather it benefit’s the individual.

  2. Thought you might find this interesting, if you haven't seen it:


  3. Roger: This is intriguing especially when you incorporate the motives and inclinations of key actors. Unpacking the thoughts, actions and explicit scientific and political goals of players like Bernal, Wallace and Bush strike me as more fertile ground than the semantics of the labels. One might argue that Basic Research and similar labels per se are political weapons, memes, tropes, metaphors - but perhaps we are thinking the same thing.