Magazine article UNESCO Courier

The Big Three Get Together

Magazine article UNESCO Courier

The Big Three Get Together

Article excerpt

UNESCO'S World Science Report describes three main models for conducting and funding scientific research. What's your thinking about this?

There certainly are three major models. By and large, Japan invests very little in defence, and industry still dominates research. Europe emphasizes basic civil research and the United States puts more stress on military research. But the three models are converging.

How did these "models" develop and why are they converging?

As far back as the late 19th century, Japan focused on applied science to catch up with the West. After the Second World War, all the major industrialized countries made massive investments in basic research, which they considered the driving force behind progress. Japan couldn't afford such a luxury at that time. But once it became a world power, it realized that it could produce itself the knowledge that gives rise to technological innovation. In the 1970s, the government began investing more in research, almost 80 per cent of which was financed by the private sector. In 1995, it earmarked some $140 billion for research over a five-year period (1995-2000). The primary goal is to strengthen public institutions and basic research.

Europe and the United States have moved in the opposite direction. After the Second World War, they went for pure research. Their economies were flourishing. The prevailing ideology suggested that science would bring economic and social progress. In the 1970s, those countries became aware that basic research, which is very expensive, was not always profitable in the short term. And Japan's example showed that economic growth was not necessarily linked to investment in pure research.

After the Cold War, the United States curbed their military budget and went all-out on research directed towards industrial applications, at the expense of basic research. …

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