Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Curious people before bureacracy and buildings

Ahmed Zewail has a great Column in Nature, emphasizing the importance of basic science, and curiosity driven research for nation building. Here is an extract:

Curiosity-driven research requires that creative scientists work in an environment that encourages interactions between researchers and collaborations across different fields. But such attributes cannot and should not be orchestrated by structured and weighty management, as creative minds and bureaucracies do not work harmoniously together. So is there a formula for managing discovery making? The answer lies in accepting a triad of essentials. 
First, and most important, are the people involved. Giving proper priority to providing thorough and inspiring education in science, technology, mathematics and engineering is essential. Research and development needs to attract the best young minds. Large buildings and massive funds will not produce much without the right people.
Second, an atmosphere of intellectual exchange is of paramount importance for ideas to crystallize. To distract faculty members with the writing of extensive and numerous proposals or to turn them into managers is the beginning of the end. The modern enterprise of science has become so bloated and complex that the traditional models of funding must be re-examined.... 
Third, without resources little can be achieved, no matter how creative the mind. Obviously, investment in science is needed to build instruments and to hire competent staff. Countries and institutions that provide the requisite infrastructure and the funding for ideas will be the homes of discoveries. But such support should follow the vision of creative researchers, not be built merely to lure money or to force people into fashionable research areas such as nanotechnology.

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