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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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12

Conclusions: How We Can Foster Prosperity Indefinitely

The discoveries outlined in the previous chapters indicate the character of the problem. Its global implications are enormous. Indeed, my reason for selecting the figure “500” is that it is the approximate number of scientific Nobel Prize winners in a century, each of whom, in the words of the Nobel Trust, was selected as a person, “who in the previous year, shall have conferred the greatest benefit on mankind.” It would seem imperative, therefore, that those responsible for scientific governance should ensure that this supply of unforeseeable and priceless intellectual capital should never be compromised. Unfortunately, our governors have abandoned Bush and Dale's vision, despite the extensive evidence supporting its accuracy, and now increasingly focus on foreseeable benefit, perhaps because in the short term it is an easier policy to sell to politicians who control the public-money supply. Indeed, the very procedures that require researchers to win the advance approval of their peers are now widely acclaimed as the “gold standard” for proposal evaluation. Those who criticize these procedures risk their colleagues' opprobrium, and, more importantly, loss of funding. But Bush, Dale, and others fought to stop us from falling into the tender trap of managing academic research by objectives, however attractive consensus deems them to be. We should thank our lucky stars that they did. Who will fight their corners today?

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