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Science Policy and Basic Research Programs

Lecture given by Prof.Joseph Schmucker von Koch at the
16th ANNUAL CONVENTION OF THE UNION OF ARAB MEDICAL DOCTORS IN EUROPE -
September 17, 1999

(Abstract)

In the worldwide process of globalization science policy is gaining 
decisive importance for the economic and social prosperity of a 
country. Though science as a methodological enterprise of gaining 
knowledge is a value in itself  it doesn´t take place outside
sociopolitical and sociocultural contexts and is also subject to 
historical conditions. Within these contexts science as such faces 
output oriented demands which it has to meet in order to justify its 
existence.
In the modern world there are mainly six prevailing sociopolitical
and sociocultural goals in the context of which science is being
recognized and evaluated by state institutions, private companies 
and investors as well as by the population of a particular country.
These leading goals are:
1) enhancement of economic progress and- in connection with it-
2) enhancement of common welfare,  the improvement of overall 
   quality of life and the standard  of living of a nation
3) the improvement of  people´s health and the elimination of 
   diseases respectively new methods of healing them
4) information for political leaders through making available
   sound and reliable data bases which allow political authorities 
   to prepare most reasonably decisions  which affect the
   future of a country in various fields of vital interest to a 
   nation
5) defense of a nation against potential aggressors and organized
   crime and thus contributing to national security
6) contributing to and extending the freedom of all through the
   technological output of science and the revolutionary findings 
   of research in information technology
The central question for a future oriented science policy now is: 
How is science to be organized as an institution that can realize 
the goals mentioned above (1-6) most effectively ?
Science  in the most advanced societies is developing as a 
complex open system which unfolds itself into three basic forms:
                                                                          
1) basic research 
2)„mid level” research
3) applied research

 „Midlevel” research and applied research are mainly financed 
by the private sector (private companies) because of its 
productrelated activities aimed at market chances.
Basic research on the other hand  is tradionally financed 
by the government and public funds due to its being primarily
knowledge directed without any concrete and immediate relation
to making new products available for the market.
This kind of „sectorizing” has primarily economic 
reasons (as will be shown briefly in the lecture). Furthermore
these three sectors cannot be clearly separated from each other 
in reality.
In a free market economy all of these sectors are interacting
with each other to their mutual benefit. This kind of interaction 
of all of the three sectors to their mutual benefit will be 
allthemore successful the more efficiently all of the institutions 
and organizations are structured which allow for such interaction. 
For these institutions and organizations the same frame of
reference  is valid which  guarantees within the realm of
science itself  successful and sustainable developments towards 
our improvement of knowledge for the benefit of mankind.
This frame of reference is made up by

1) flexibility  to the benefit of  innovative developments
2) „open space” (unregulated structures) for creativity and 
   innovation
3) free international exchange of ideas within the worldwide 
   scientific community
4) pluralism of various scientific positions and theoretical
   concepts 
5) financial grants and awards to those researchers and 
   institutions who produce excellent results

Science Policy has to make available the intellectual (normative)
conditions and material means which allow for a sustainable
development of science within this framework.
Furthermore science policy has not only to work for the
utmost efficient and sustainable development of science and 
scientific institutions by guaranteeing the structures of an open
system. It also has to provide for the acceptance of science and
the broad consensus on its goals among the people of a particular 
country. Basic Research is usually funded by the taxpayer´s money. 
Science Policy  has to take this into account and develop strategies
which allow for such an acceptance and a broad based consensus.
There is already sufficient empirical evidence available that 
this is best realized by establishing Institutional Review Boards
and Ethics Review Committees  at decisive points within scientific
structures. It is their duty and obligation to guarantee that
the complex scientific process remains within the framework of 
the leading sociocultural  goals (1-6), especially the leading 
goal of bringing more freedom to mankind by freeing people from 
unnecessary bonds of the unknown which knowledge can dissolve.
Science and basic research must be truly experienced by the
public as a  contribution to preserving human dignity in a finite
world. The Committees have to provide for this coherence and 
through their decisions can contribute to the respect of specific 
sociocultural conditions in a particular country. This is a dynamic 
process which necessitates a continuous feedback by the scientific
community which in turn receives a more reliable basis for planning 
its projects.                                                
Only through such a value oriented approach to the whole
scientific process modern societies can develop a broad based 
acceptance of the scientific progress with its 
far reaching consequences for the life of each and every citizen.  

Copyright by Joseph Schmucker von Koch. All rights reserved