This issue of Ogmius highlights a recent workshop co-organized by Roger Pielke, Jr. - “The Workshop on Reconciling Supply And Demand For Research In The Science Of Science And Innovation Policy.” Held in Oslo, Norway in May, the workshop addressed the question “How can scholars who study science and innovation policy contribute more effectively to the needs of policy makers facing decisions about science and innovation policy?” Roger’s reflections follow. Comments welcome! firstname.lastname@example.org
A Brief Report from a Workshop on Science Policy Research and Science Policy Decisions
by Roger Pielke, Jr.
In May, 2009, I co-organized a workshop with Merle Jacob of the University of Oslo on the role of science and innovation policy research in making science and innovation policy decisions. The workshop, sponsored by the US National Science Foundation (NSF) and the Norwegian Research Council (NRC), was held at the NRC headquarters in Oslo during a few beautiful sunny spring days. Attended primarily by scholars and decision makers from the United States and Norway, it also included a few scholars from the United Kingdom and Sweden. Here are a few of my early reactions from that workshop.
First, the relationship between research on science and decisions about science appears to be gaining more attention in the US and Norway, as well as more broadly across Europe. Second, in spite of increasing attention to the topic of “science of science and innovation policy” the area remains somewhat of a Rorschach test, even for scholars who self-define their work in this area. For instance, even within the United States there is no shared terminology to describe this area of research, much less among scholars across the Atlantic.
Interestingly, scholars from outside this general community could rightly claim to be doing this sort of work. One of the cases we examined was climate research: Here there is considerable discussion about the role of research in decision making, but many scholars are not at all engaged with the community of science and technology policy research or science and technology studies. Better integration of such topical communities with those more historically focused on science and technology as an object of study would benefit both communities.
Third, despite a seeming consensus in the community that a focus on “indicators” does not do justice to the complex relationship between research and the societal outcomes related to research, the community maintains a magnetic-like fixation on identifying indicators of relevance. The focus is on inputs such as funding for various areas of science, as well as outputs such as patents, publications, and citations. Equally irresistible is the urge to engage in cross-national comparisons, with each country’s science policy makers looking for ways to show how their nation is somehow falling behind the competition.
Fourth, even as science policy decision makers appeal to cross-national comparisons to gain the advantage in domestic debates over resource allocation, one of the most surprising things about our workshop was the ease with which scholars of science and innovation shared a common set of norms and perspectives. Part of this, of course, reflects the fact that Merle and I selected the participants (who were mostly, but not exclusively, social scientists and humanists). But academia today is so thoroughly globalized that its culture and practices know no national boundaries, especially between the United States and Europe.
Fifth, the obstacles that lie between research and its use in other fields are also found in the area of science of science and innovation policy.
We expect to put together a special journal issue from the workshop. In the meantime, you can have a look at details of the event, including a number of very interesting background papers.
Roger Pielke, Jr.