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

Karl Auer kauer at biplane.com.au
Tue Dec 12 15:25:38 AEDT 2006

On Tue, 2006-12-12 at 14:46 +1100, Brendan Scott wrote:
> Research should be funded with the aim of producing benefits,
> otherwise why do it?  The question is how to measure those benefits.

OK, agreed. As long as commercial benefits are not the only yardstick.

> BTW: This is not an argument against basic research, as that is still
> undertaken with a view to producing benefits, although they are
> further in the future.

Fine - that is really all I was saying.

> We shouldn't fund research only to benefit our competitors.

No. Just as employers who do not train people because "they just leave
to work for our competitors" has missed the point of training, so too
has anyone missed the point who advances the argument that research
should (or even can) benefit any one in particular. Once research is
seeking a specific commercial goal, with any certitude of finding it, it
isn't really research any more, it's development :-)

> > This ONLY makes sense once research has shown itself to be
> > commercially useful, which is a bit of a Catch-22. Most research
> > takes place long before that - so who funds it?
> No, this is an argument about whether the benefits can be predicted,
> not whether they are expected.  Implicitly you are still supporting
> the argument that research is undertaken to provide benefits.  In
> other words - if you had a crystal ball and could tell that certain
> research would never ever benefit anyone (other than by keeping the
> scientists involved off the streets) would you still fund it?  

Nope. But then, it would depend very much on how you defined "benefit". 

Most research provides some benefit, even if it is just to cross a
pointless path off the infinitely long list of pointless paths. *ANY*
research performed by a student has the benefit of helping that student
learn, absolutely regardless of the technical outcome.

*Choices* have to be made in what to fund. But those choices should NOT
be commercial (or at least not only commercial). The closer a research
area is to something "useful" in the commercial sense, the more
commercial funding can and should be sought. Government funding should
be run on quite different lines.

Regards, K.

Karl Auer (kauer at biplane.com.au)                   +61-2-64957160 (h)
http://www.biplane.com.au/~kauer/                  +61-428-957160 (mob)

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