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Author Topic: What is the scalability of basic research?  (Read 4229 times)

Offline booomups

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What is the scalability of basic research?
« on: 16/01/2009 13:30:32 »
getting naked saying: hello

I wonder if there has already been done some publicly available work on the scalability of research. (edit: I mean in natural science, medicine, technical and electric engineering etc.)
I am sure private companies have already done a lot of cost/benefit analaysis, but public institutions should have done that too...  I just cant find anything with my google searches.

could anybody help me out? personal experience or hearsay is offcourse also welcome.

My general interests are more in the direction of (world) politics and economics regarding an optimal positive knowledge and ability of humanity (next to a happy life for all),so...

I think this question is quite important but never has been picked up in school or political discussions (that reached me).
« Last Edit: 17/01/2009 12:14:20 by chris »


 

Offline Soul Surfer

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Re: What is the scalability of basic research?
« Reply #1 on: 17/01/2009 10:20:10 »
This topic sounds quite interesting but is not really well enough defined to give an answer. Booomups could you please give a little bit more of an explanation of precisely the sort of information that you are looking for. possibly with one or two examples.

In my experience both industry and business find it very difficult to predict the effect that any innovation will have on society.  I can speak from personal knowledge of this in industry.

Before I retired I worked for EMI Central Research Laboratories for more than 35 years and was involved in a small way with the invention and development of the Xray CT scanner (For which Godfrey Hounsfield a colleague at the lab won a Nobel prize)

The first experimental head scanner had been installed at the Atkinson Morley hospital and was giving very good results showing things that had never been seen before.  I was involved with a meeting with the head of marketing for EMI and he was very dismissive of the project he said "we will make about 3 for the NHS and get our money back on the project that's about all"  I told him "don't you realise that when this gets out into the medical press the world will beat a pathway to your door you have one of the best inventions this century!"  he just refused to believe me, but I was right and EMI made millions selling copies of the NHS instruments and a whole new era of medical imaging was created.  Unfortunately for EMI they took on some new directors to do this expansion and greed took over and the eventual collapse of EMI Medical is s classic business disaster study.
« Last Edit: 17/01/2009 10:29:28 by Soul Surfer »
 

Offline booomups

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What is the scalability of basic research?
« Reply #2 on: 17/01/2009 20:33:48 »
interesting information, not what i was looking for, but...  filling the hate for bad (and thus overpaid) managers is always fun.

I meant more something like:

the results of randomly looking for new materials using nanotechnology would "probably" correlate (on average) nearly 1 to 1 with the amount of researchers/money and machines available.  (that is... if the management only takes about double the money for itself).

Developing new drugs could probably be put in the same category.

Maybe in these cases, they could even get more results of financially doubling the investment, because their aggregate experience in that field grows too.



Other situation: One "genius" scientist...  he probably could not get double the (useful or respected) results by getting 4 instead of 2 "average" research assistants, or simply double the money available.

off course I am talking about the results on average.


or some more concrete and different situations:

by how much could Intel (the potato chips maker) speed up its development of better smaller production processess (by employing more engineers), seeing that much of their improvements depend on the advancements of tools supplyers, worldwide public and private basic research and their competitors.

or the degree of which medical research profits from basic nanotechnologie research. could the long term advancements for the medical field be higher by an x dollar investment in nanotec instead of general medical research?

and give free markets (free as in nearly no governement influence except the little anti monopoly enforcements that currently exist)... are there good reasons to believe an optimual ratio (proportion, relationship)between these two and other research is or will be approached?  

seeing how many nations politics decide (or influence the decission) on how much and on what their citizens pay for health care...


I probably didn't do a very good job, neither on meaning or english grammar, maybe somebody can phrase everything neatly into one short question?

at least I tried...  i am a little proud over here...  

  


 

Offline Soul Surfer

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What is the scalability of basic research?
« Reply #3 on: 18/01/2009 00:45:58 »
Thankyou for your explanation it is now very clear but I will need to think a bit before I reply please be patient.

The very quick answer is that succesful innovation is very far from being a linear function of the effort put into it and so is not strictly scalable.
 

Offline booomups

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What is the scalability of basic research?
« Reply #4 on: 18/01/2009 15:19:29 »
I have no problem with waiting...  I am the type who writes a text and only hours, days or even months after it (without reading it again) I realize things I shouldn't and things I should have written  --> not much self confidence

how do the people in charge decide on allocation of research or development funds? What theories and study s lie behind that?

Not considering situations where the management is actually unwilling to do the project, like soul surfers example.

(my newest try for neatly in a short sentence, better?)


soul surfer, am i right to imagen a many scientists or engineers work to be like having to find "one" solution for a well defined question or problem.

Because then one would probably create a list with ways to deal with the question, starting with the most likely successful followed by some that are taken as less likely beeing good/right answer or way of resolving the problem.

The lower the chance or percentage difference in such a guess list would be, the more linear the (speed of achieving)success plotted (right word?) to the resources invested.

assuming that work on the first point of that list does not scale well with more research funds.

(same sentence, first try: assuming there is a limit on speed achievement by using more resources, when going after one of the points on the previously mentioned guess list.)

thanks to everyone for bearing with my scribbling/writing
 

 

Offline booomups

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What is the scalability of basic research?
« Reply #5 on: 18/01/2009 16:07:09 »
wow... I guess I have to reread my first post and the thread title before anything else.

If worldwide, governments and vry vry rich people would decide to invest more tax money into basic science, would that benefit aggregate technological advancement or just stunt private investments in that direction and hinder the actual development of useful usable products...

maybe I am just looking for pro/contra arguments to public or subsidized basic science research?...

I dont know anymore...     
 

Offline booomups

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What is the scalability of basic research?
« Reply #6 on: 18/01/2009 17:32:15 »
and another old thought/argument/question that goes the same direction:

how important is the practical experience of building product x and the tools to create product x regarding the technological advancements surrounding product x and x itself

how important is the experience in building and maintaining hundreds of nuclear reactors to the detail and basic technolocal improvements in the reactor designs?


... I am not expecting anyone to actually answer all or most of my questions, but any help in sorting my thoughts, guiding me to related discussions etc is welcome big time.

 

Offline Soul Surfer

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What is the scalability of basic research?
« Reply #7 on: 19/01/2009 00:07:41 »
The scalability of effort in scientific research depends on several important factors.

Basic development along a known track and searches through large sets of similar experiments could be scalable.

True innovation is a more random process but again there are innovations into well developed areas that can be more organised but completely unexpected innovations often some form unexpected mistakes and all sorts of good luck.  For example the classic case of penicillin came form observing that contaminate bacterial cultures could be damaged by mould growth rather than just throwing the contaminated ones away and working in the uncontaminated ones.

there are also other effects that can affect the rate at which research progresses.

For example the cycle time.  How ie how long does it take to perform the experiments to know if the idea is a good one.  together with the answer to the question, is it feasible to have more than one team working on similar projects in parallel? this may not be possible if the experiment is a very large one like the Large Hadron collider.

Another interesting factor is the control factor.  If research is very carefully planned and controlled with very little deviation from a planned path.  This can have a negative effect on lucky discoveries.

The financial climate and "fashion" can also have a big effect on research and development.  The privatisation of utilities brought in a lot of money for the government but it totally destroyed a vast amount of good research and development tracks.

I could give examples of all these from my own experience.
 

Offline booomups

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What is the scalability of basic research?
« Reply #8 on: 19/01/2009 19:08:38 »
"The financial climate and "fashion" can also have a big effect on research and development.  The privatisation of utilities brought in a lot of money for the government but it totally destroyed a vast amount of good research and development tracks."

I really would like to hear your take on this one.
 

Offline Soul Surfer

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What is the scalability of basic research?
« Reply #9 on: 19/01/2009 22:43:14 »
Back in the late 70s I had invented patented and developed some advanced techniques for communication along the mains cabling using a spread spectrum technique to allow instrumented gas electricity and water meters to be read remotely and other useful control systems to be implemented.  we had taken the concept to production prototypes and equipped more than 1000 houses in London and Milton Keynes to test out the system which was very successful.  This involved significant R&D funding and cooperation between gas electricity and water utilities.

The UK had a world lead in this technology area. Other contries were very interested in our world patented ideas.

Then Maggie Thatcher came in and said she was going to privatise the utilities and the first thing that they did prior to privatisation was to cancel and kill off virtually all their research and development programmes including this one.

Because the concept never went into full production the rest of the world lost interest because they did not want to take the risk of going into production when the UK had cancelled the project. So the whole concept slowly died an the UK lost whatever lead it had in this area.
« Last Edit: 19/01/2009 22:45:19 by Soul Surfer »
 

Offline booomups

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What is the scalability of basic research?
« Reply #10 on: 20/01/2009 09:38:06 »
thats privatizing without insuring that there is healthy competition. the railway being expensive (at least around london) is something I read about recently...  samo I guess.

Ill try to formulate my questions a little bit clearer and post them in a german forum, If somebody links me to something interesting ill try remembering to post it here too.


   
 

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What is the scalability of basic research?
« Reply #10 on: 20/01/2009 09:38:06 »

 

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