Research Funding & Public Image

alex taylor ataylor at
Mon Jul 10 11:05:51 EST 1995

In article <Pine.3.89.9507081035.A16458-0100000 at>,
Alexander Berezin <berezin at mcmail.CIS.McMaster.CA> wrote:


>> > 
>> > We propose the following remedy. All university
>> > professors active in research should prepare an
>> > executive summary of their work written in layman terms
>> reports of the highlights of our work for the commissioner.  These have to be
>> in "barpersons'" terms, and the relevance of the work to public health must
>> be emphasized.  (BTW, I doubt whether Rutherford was "politically correct"
>> enough to use the gender-neutral term.)  The relevance to health or to what-
>> ever socially beneficial area is appropriate is a key to making these sum-
>> maries work.  Not only must MP's or legislators understand what we do, they

>> 				Bill Tivol

The assumption here is 1) that the work has immediate, obvious relevance 2)
that directed or strategic research is an advisable use of public money,
or even possible 3) it is indeed possible for a laymen to understand
the work in a meaningful way -- once it has been boiled down
into colloquial terminology. As it is not clear to me that any of
these assumptions are tenable as broad generalizations, I am not sure that I
agree that your proposal is a good idea -- although I concede that it is
probably useful in the context of the department of health. 

	I also note that politicians and bureaucrats tend to believe whatever
hypothesis is most convenient to them at the time, regardless of what their
scientific advisors tell them. Therefore I am not sure that a
laymens' abstract would really make any difference to public policy in
any event, or that it would prevent further cuts to science funding. An
example that leaps to mind is the rather unsubtle escapism
which governments and corporations have indulged in with respect to a
number of serious environmental and health problems. 

Alex Taylor
ataylor at

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