[LINK] Einstein's fridge an example for NICTA?

Chris Maltby chris at sw.oz.au
Mon Dec 11 20:28:15 AEDT 2006

On Mon, Dec 11, 2006 at 02:57:46PM +1100, Evan.ARTHUR at Dest.gov.au wrote:
> In relation to Tom and Brendan's exchange, Linkers might be interested
> to look at a recent Productivity Commission draft report on exactly this
> issue at http://www.pc.gov.au/study/science/draftreport/index.html.
> Overall the PC's view of the world has much more in common with
> Brendan's than Tom's.

On a more political note, the election of the Reagan administration
resulted in a dramatic change in research funding in the US. The idea
of government funded research ending up in the public domain where
anyone could profit from it (either in an economic or academic sense)
went largely out the window. It was replaced with funding designed to
generate Intellectual Property which could be exploited for economic
return. Naturally, clients of the US adopted similar funding models
soon afterward.

It's arguable that the Internet could not have been created under the
Reagan model - look at the billions that were poured into attempting
to get a the different "standard" OSI implementations to interoperate.
But (without a lot of research into the topic) I reckon the change
has dramatically reduced the investment in "pure" science, with an
overall decline in the rate of innovation.

The pharmaceutical industry is a case in point - in spite of the
rhetoric about drug company R&D, most new drugs are derived from
discoveries made in conjunction with research which is not product
driven. The rate of discovery of new classes of drugs has dropped
since the Reagan research doctrine was introduced - and research
into areas considered non-commercial is now conducted largely by
charitable foundations.

NICTA is somewhat of a hybrid model - it has a strong focus on
commercially valuable outcomes, but also allows some pure research to
be funded as well. One of its most successful projects (in both ways)
has produced a commercially valuable micro-kernel and at least one
spin-off enterprise, while the codebase itself remains an open-source

The other aspect which is noteworthy has been its close association
with universities where it has been able to supplement the sparse
research funding and provide post-doctoral research placements for
local researchers as well as attracting people from other countries.

The NICTA model may not be a substitute for increased research funding
and funding for research universities and CSIRO with an increased
emphasis on pure research, but in the absence of that it's a bit
churlish to be too critical of the approach.


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