Ideology in Science Policy Isn’t Always What You Think It Is

A short post to, in my mind, compensate for the earlier self-absorption.

Two posts, quite unrelated, demonstrate how ideological perspectives other than party can color how science and technology policy is or is not developed in a country.

The first, from Jack Stilgoe, is about what a colleague of his characterized as a ‘banal nationalism’ of science policies.  I don’t have the paper, so what follows is my interpretation of what that might mean.  Jack should feel free to correct me, here or elsewhere, for what I miss and/or get wrong.  But the nationalism seemed to me to be the kind of competitiveness over science and technology policy numbers that dominates many discussions of the subject.  That is, increasing certain measures of ‘science’ – budget figures, numbers of scientists and engineers, numbers of patents, percentage of gross national product spent (not invested) in research and development, etc.  I don’t consider this unique to the U.K., but I would be interested in reading more about what makes the U.K. struggles uniquely British (I do hope it’s not the tourism angle Stilgoe outlines at the end of the piece).

Over at Science Progress there is a recent piece by Joseph Lane and Benoit Golden on what they consider to be a national suite of science, technology and innovation policies ill-suited for producing economic benefit.  While I’m not completely behind their notion that innovation policy needs to be oriented around the business method rather than the scientific method, I think the ideological bias they highlight is a problem.

As they see it, there is a science first bias in science, technology and innovation policies.  Given the persistence of the linear model of scientific and technological development, this makes some sense.  (I suspect the general separation between science policy and technology policy doesn’t help things either.)  But while I infer from the piece a commercialization first perspective, I’m not keen on substituting one bias for another. There can, and I think should be, support for innovation efforts regardless of whether they are in science, engineering, or commercialization.  But I don’t think the end customer is simply business.  There are other parties who can and should benefit.

If anything, these two pieces should help advance the notion that a regular revisiting of biases and perspectives within science and technology policy (a Deweyian intellectual disrobing, if you will) can be beneficial.

A Day Late For Leather

Yesterday marked the third anniversary of this blog (though my first blog post on Prometheus was nearly 6.5 years ago).  Looking back, it seems I’ve fallen into what I would assume is a common trap of this online churning.  While I do my best to pick up on what I’ve posted before when there are new developments, it’s been in a fashion that’s far from systematic.  In a more concrete example, I promised to change the decor around here last year, but it’s still that shade of green.

For point of comparison, you can read my first and second anniversary posts to see what the most-viewed posts were at that time.  This year, there has been little change since last year.  However, it would seem that (not surprisingly?) the more general interest posts get the most views.

With all the different things that can skew blog numbers, it’s hard to read a lot into them with any degree of confidence.  What I might take more confidence in is an increasing visibility on Twitter and at other science and technology places (subscription required) of note.

I have no idea what comes next, besides an effort to persist in commenting on all the science and technology policy stuff that interests me, but doesn’t intersect with the day job.  As for making this my day job, I’m going to have to figure out the tradeoff between the job that provides the credibility to be taken seriously as a blogger on science and technology policy and the time to be able to do this in a more thoughtful and consistent fashion than I’ve been able to manage so far.

Thanks for reading, and I will eventually spruce up the joint.