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Promoting the Planck Club: How Defiant Youth, Irreverent Researchers and Liberated Universities Can Foster Prosperity Indefinitely by Donald Braben

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Appendix 1: Open Letter to Research Councils UK from Donald W. Braben and Others Published in Times Higher Education, November 5, 2009

The research councils have decided that proposals should include a plan of their “potential economic impact” a term that they stress embraces all the ways in which research-related knowledge and skills could benefit individuals, organizations and nations. Peer reviewers will be asked to consider whether plans to increase impact are appropriate and justified, given the nature of the proposed research. However, academic researchers are primarily responsible for the impartial pursuit of knowledge. Haldane acknowledged this many years ago, and the application of his famous Principle, by which governments did not interfere in scientific policy-making, was spectacularly successful for decades. Science is global, of course, and until relatively recently policies of non-interference flourished everywhere. The result was an abundance of unpredicted transformational discoveries, including DNA structure, the genetic code, holography, the laser, magnetic resonance imaging, almost all of which came from academic research. These discoveries also stimulated unprecedented economic growth.

Earlier this year, some of us wrote to THE (12 February 2009) expressing our concern with the new requirement. We urged peer reviewers to stage a “modest revolt” by declining invitations to take potential economic impact into consideration, confining their assessments to matters ...

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