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Policy

Top-down research

November 6, 2006 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 84, ISSUE 45

Correction

Oct. 9, page 56. In our attempts to win the Ig Nobel Physics Prize, the Newscripts gang has been experimenting with time travel. This caused us to refer to the 2007 Ig Nobel Prizes in a story about the 2006 Ig Nobel Prizes. We apologize for the error and assure you that next year's Ig Nobels meet the standards C&EN readers have come to expect. The article posted on C&EN Online (www.cen-online.org) has been corrected.

Two complementary articles in the Aug. 7 issue of C&EN, the first about funding of research in industry and the second about earmarking to agencies and academia, suggest patterns that are potentially injurious to honest "root" or conceptual research especially.

In "Firms, Stock Analysts Should Take a Long View" (page 36), a joint forum of the Business Roundtable Institute of Corporate Ethics and the CFA Institute Center for Financial Market Integrity noted that from a "survey of 400 financial executives, 80% indicated they would cut discretionary spending on such areas as research and development, advertising, maintenance, and hiring to meet short-term earnings prospects." No surprise there. My own observation is that financial executives, often lacking any knowledge about science or technology and their real contributions to corporate growth, are unabashedly major voices, directly or indirectly, for top-down program steering. Of course, they also are empowered to cut programs, and discretionary projects in the root stage, while least costly generally, are most easily excised, worthy or not.

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