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Journal of the National Research University Higher School of Economics

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E-ISSN 2500-2597

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Leonid Gokhberg




Helmut Gassler, Andreas Schibany1
  • 1 Institut für Höhere Studien — Institute for Advanced Studies, Stumpergasse 56, 1060 Vienna, Austria

«Useless» Science: How to Evaluate Performance of Basic Research

2011. Vol. 5. No. 1. P. 40–47 [issue contents]

Helmut Gassler— Research Fellow, Centre for Economic and Innovation Research, Joanneum Research (Austria). E-mail: helmut.gassler@joanneum.at  Address: Joanneum Research, Forschungsgesellschaft mbH, Centre for Economic and Innovation Research, Sensengasse 1, 1090 Vienna, Austria

Andreas Schibany— Research Fellow, Centre for Economic and Innovation Research, Joanneum Research (Austria). E-mail: andreas.schibany@joanneum.at  Address: Joanneum Research, Forschungsgesellschaft mbH, Centre for Economic and Innovation Research, Sensengasse 1, 1090 Vienna, Austria

In many countries which have limited R&D budgets are confronted with discussions about the feasibility and appropriateness of supporting basic science and research. Among these countries is Austria – the country of origin of the authors. Basic research as opposed to applied research  aims at increasing the stock of knowledgeper sewithout any consideration to applicability. Meanwhile, there is a widely held belief that publicly funded research must result in economic gains. Thus basic research is inherently under pressure of having to prove its favorable effects on the economy. In recent years such rhetoric has even intensified. Moreover the so-called ‘free-rider’ strategy presumes that it is ambiguous for a small economy to invest in costly basic research when the results of other countries’ basic research are published and available without charge as public goods.

The authors provide a retrospective analysis of the discussed issue. From his point of view rejection of developing country’s internal scientific base is reckless in terms of responsibility for the future of coming generations. Explaining the causes of way-out views, the authors offer a look at the situation from a different perspective paying attention to known facts.

Because of its high degree of specialization basic research is often thought of as abstract and out of touch with reality, but in the main it is inspired and set off by practical questions. Undoubtedly, an early estimate of its effects is quite complicated, since basic research outputs usually require a significant time lag to be transformed into commercial product. The authors suggest that in the future it will remain difficult to fully assess the impact of basic research on economic growth and to provide clear answers to the questions raised.

Numerous evidences however demonstrate that application of the knowledge gained from the basic research promotes the emergence of entirely new industrial developments. Basic science, supported by the government and development undertaken by the private sector, are able to be complementary and act in tandem. Today more than ever before there is a need for free, i.e. unrestricted, science-oriented research, namely for doing that part of research work which private companies can and will no longer afford. These projects contribute to the expansion of a company’s technological capacities by providing access to existing knowledge, guaranteeing the possibility of their use and further development, etc. It is proved that a country rejecting development of its own research facilities and skilled personnel will not be able to take advantage from the achievements gained by other nations. Availability of highly qualified and skilled scientists is essential for an efficient capture of new knowledge. Companies, possessing similar human capital, have the ability to absorb information from outside thus increasing in-house expertise.

The authors draw attention to the possibility for companies to conduct R&D in collaboration with universities. This will allow the commercialization of research results as well as investments in innovative entrepreneurial initiatives. In Austria, this type of funding so far remains underdeveloped.

 

Citation: Gassler H., Schibany A. (2011) «Nepraktichnaya» nauka: kak otsenit' rezul'tativnost' fundamental'nykh issledovaniy [«Useless» Science: How to Evaluate Performance of Basic Research]. Foresight-Russia, vol. 5, no 1, pp. 40-47 (in Russian)
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