July, 2006. Itfollows the release of the Productivity Commission’s Draft Research Report on
Public Support for Science and Innovation
. That report referred in places to myearlier submission. My purpose here is to clarify some issues associated withthose references.
Definitions of Science
My earlier submission examined the economic arguments for science. Inparticular, I argued (pp.5-6) that science could be defined as an institution:
… particular way of allocating resources, that is, an institution. …science is a way of deciding which projects should be undertaken.First, it is scientist driven in that scientists propose the projectsand scientists review them. Second, it has a priority based rewardsystem whereby there is a commitment to give a reward to thosescientists who are first to establish a new fact or way ofunderstanding the world ... those rewards are paid upon successthrough citation and academic promotion and notoriety.
The draft report notes this definition but argues that it is inadequate:
Gans’ definition valuably describes some of the common featuresof basic science as an institution for allocating resources withinuniversities and it is a useful framework for discussing some ofthe processes used by government in the design of the system.However,
it is incomplete as a description of science as an institutionoutside universities and basic research
. And, for the definitionalpurposes of this chapter, it does not indicate the features whichdistinguish the discipline of science from other research activities.(PC, 2006, 1.6, emphasis added)
I would strongly question that this definition is incomplete outside universitiesand basic research. Indeed, it is outside that it is most useful to think aboutscientific motivations and drivers rather than purely commercial drivers. Mypoint is that, in fact, one should avoid thinking of science as a type of knowledge.Instead, it is a way of deciding which knowledge to pursue. The other driver ofthis is commercial returns. However, what is critical is that these drivers interactand for outside universities even more so. That was the point of Stokes (1997)investigation. It has been backed up by examinations of scientist behaviour incommercial laboratories (Stern, 2004).