Tag Archives: science

Från subventioner till investeringar

This piece by Bill Gates in the latest issue of Science is highly recommended:

Last year, I joined with other business leaders in a call to increase federal investment in energy R&D from $5 billion to $16 billion a year.† (Others, including the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, have also recommended substantial increases.‡) Recently, our group, the American Energy Innovation Council (AEIC), issued a second report outlining ways to ensure that government research dollars are targeted wisely to achieve optimal returns. The report also suggests ways to pay for the increased investment: reducing or eliminating current subsidies to well-established energy industries, diverting a portion of royalties from domestic energy production, collecting a small fee on electricity sales, or imposing a price on carbon. Any combination of these could provide the funds needed to increase energy innovation. Even at almost triple the current level of government investment in energy innovation, the research dollars that the AEIC is advocating would represent a small fraction of the money presently spent on renewable energy subsidies and efficiency grants.

The genome of the Christmas tree

In the latest issue of Science:

Given its importance to Sweden’s timber industry, it wasn’t surprising when the Sweden-based Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation last year announced it would provide about $10 million for the sequencing of the Norway spruce’s genome. But what is unexpected—or at least it would have been a year ago—is that this sequencing will largely happen in Sweden rather than being farmed out to other countries. Next week, officials in Stockholm will inaugurate a new building with cutting-edge DNA sequencing machines that by 2013 should produce a rough draft of the genome of the “Christmas” tree.

Interesting thoughts on intellectual property

Sherry M. Knowles, Chief Patent Counsel at GlaxoSmithKline, in the latest issue of Science, 2010, 327 (5969), pp. 1083-1084:

“Fixing the Legal Framework for Pharmaceutical Research

The cost of drug research and development (R&D) has increased from ~$230 million per drug in the early 1980s to $1.2 billion today, with R&D currently requiring about 10 to 15 years per drug. This investment of time and money cannot be sustained without a legal system that provides sufficient time to recoup the investment and to secure a reasonable return, as well as the ability to make important business decisions that remain correct over a long period of time. Pharmaceutical companies have historically relied on two kinds of market protection: (i) the exclusive ownership of their own clinical research and (ii) patents. However, the U.S. Hatch-Waxman Act, which is designed to strike a balance between innovative pharmaceutical research and access to generic drugs, is flawed. Further, U.S. courts sometimes retroactively change standards for patent protection long after large R&D efforts have been initiated, which increases the risk to defend and rely on patent protection.”

Those who have access to Science’s archive will find the full text here. Otherwise, leave your e-mail address in a comment, and the text will be sent to you by e-mail.

Simon Hedlin Larsson

The gap between policymakers and scholars

If academics – as they like to think themselves – have the most knowledge, why do not policymakers and politicians listen more to what researchers and scientists say?

One possible explanation is given by Daniel W. Drezner, professor of international politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, on his blog at the Foreign Policy website:

“I was at a small conference devoted to the idea of getting scholars and policymakers in the same room to talk about U.S. policy towards a Great Power That Shall Remain Nameless.  The idea was that policymakers could highlight issues that professors might have overlooked and vice versa.

Everything was going along swimmingly until one of the policymakers in the room complained that some of the academic memos that had been prepared for the conference were too long to be read by policymakers — which was true, except that wasn’t the purpose of these memos.  In response, a Smart and Well Respected Political Scientist went off on a serious and righteous rant.  Why didn’t policymakers or staffers in DC actually read what experts thought about a particular issue?  It wasn’t just that political scientists were being put on the sidelines — we were  being completely ignored.

Well, this provoked a rollicking good debate, and afterwards, many of us gathered around the Smart and Well Respected Political Scientist to applaud those remarks.  We then chatted about how political scientists could enter the policymaking fray with a bit more vim and vigor.  Someone suggested that this might be easier if younger scholars felt that they could engage in public debate without the fear of disapproval from the profession.  At which point the Smart and Well Respected Political Scientist said something to the effect of, ‘Oh, no.  Once someone has tenure, and has a full publishing pedigree, then they can start making a few public pronouncements.’

And that, my friends, is a big reason why there’s a gap between policymakers and scholars.”

So true.

Simon Hedlin Larsson