Facebook launched an official research program in 2009, giving the academic community tightly controlled access to a ballooning set of granular data about social interactions and activity. It quickly became a “holy grail” for social scientists, who have been drawing on it to publish important new findings almost daily. The question now is whether this kind of scientific research will end up being curtailed in the continuing backlash against data-sharing of any sort.
The congressionally requested report includes recommendations to open career paths inside and outside of academia for early career scientists, broaden responsibility among public and private stakeholders for the future of the research ecosystem, and increase policy experimentation and investment in that research ecosystem, so that scientists are empowered to imagine new and innovative treatments for diseases and improvements to health and well-being.
“Our country is used to leading the world in technology innovation and service delivery,” Margaret Weichert, deputy director for management at the Office of Management and Budget, said Thursday at an event on “Unleashing American Innovation.” “And at one time, the U.S. government was the catalyst of much of that innovation.” The current administration, she suggested, is committed to getting back there.
The Chinese government has been aggressively incentivizing increased patent filings. In many ways, China’s innovation economy is a near photo-negative of the current iteration of the U.S. patent system.
The lone-genius narrative is a powerful one. Picturing one person in a lab declaring “Eureka” is certainly easier than imagining an international team using a cross-time-zone conference call to finalize plans for their upcoming 17-minute window on a lunar orbiter. Even researchers who study trends in scientific collaboration have to reference the powerful idea. But research has shown that science is far from a lonely endeavor and has been gravitating towards dramatically larger teams over the last century.
In a move few scientists anticipated, the Chinese government has decreed that all scientific data generated in China must be submitted to government-sanctioned data centers before appearing in publications. At the same time, the regulations, posted last week, call for open access and data sharing. The possibly conflicting directives puzzle researchers, who note that the yet-to-be-established data centers will have latitude in interpreting the rules.
Researchers are often forced to follow circuitous and time-consuming routes to access the journal articles they need, even when their institutions and organizations have legitimate subscription access. Not only do these barriers waste time and cause frustration, they are stifling the pace of scientific innovation.
Tech companies claimed the top five spots in the U.S. for research and development spending again last year, investing a combined total of $76 billion. Amazon was at the top of the list, spending $22.6 billion in 2017, 41 percent more than in 2016 (when it also topped the list).
The next thing in space-based weapons could be decades old, according to Michael Griffin, the first defense undersecretary for research and engineering. “Directed energy is more than just big lasers,” Griffin said. “That’s important. High-powered microwave approaches can effect an electronics kill.