Scientific Freedom: The Elixir of Civilization

Donald W. Braben

“a groundbreaking and urgent approach for reviving disruptive scientific innovation from a leading figure in venture research.

The early 20th century’s scientific harvest was so abundant that it completely altered entire economies and sectors. The list continues on: Max Planck established the groundwork for quantum physics, Barbara McClintock for contemporary genetics, and Linus Pauling for chemistry.

The character of scientific research began to shift in the 1970s. As public financing for scientific research increased, there were demands that spending is justified, a peer-review process that only chose research ideas with the highest potential for return, and a push for never-ending quick fixes rather than in-depth, boundary-pushing study. The downward spiral got started.

Donald W. Braben offers a framework in Scientific Freedom for locating and encouraging cutting-edge, urgently required scientific innovation. Braben, who oversaw British Petroleum’s Venture Research initiative, which sought to find and support scientists who were questioning accepted scientific wisdom, explains:

—the conditions that catalyzed scientific research in the early 20th century; —the costs to society of our current research model; —the changing role of the university as a research institution; —how BP’s Venture Research initiative succeeded by minimizing bureaucracy and peer review, and the program’s impact; —the selection, budget, and organizational criteria for implementing a Venture Research program today.

To those accustomed to the patterns established by the past, disruptive and groundbreaking research can already appear unrecognizable in its early stages. Support for this research can, in fact, be low-risk and lucrative, but doing so necessitates rethinking the methods used to find and fund researchers with groundbreaking theories and then providing those innovators the flexibility to pursue their ideas.

This updated edition of Scientific Freedom, which was first released in 2008, features a stunning archival-quality hardback, over 30 new images, and a new prologue by Donald Braben.”