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Martin Rees: How Science Can Save the World

Thursday, September 29, 2022  ⚓︎

Martin Rees talks to The Economist’s Alok Jha on existential risks to civilization and the importance of science and science communication in the 21st century running up to his new book coming out this November (I already pre-ordered).

There is a constant buzz on Twitter about the pains of academic research. Martin Rees agrees that aspects of university research needs to be changed. Administrative bloat and scientists staying in their positions past retirement age discourage blue-sky research and gum up the promotion pipeline. He criticises the scope of UK ARIA (Advanced Research and Invention Agency) program, which is supposed to function similar to the US’s high-risk high-reward DARPA (Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency) program:

In that perspective, it’s just a sideshow. The ministers say this is a wonderful way in which scientists can work in a long-term way on blue skies research without too much administrative hassle. They’d be doing far more good if they reduced the amount of such administrative hassle in those who are supported by UKRI, which is supporting fifty times as much research as ARIA will ever do.

Science in the last ten years or so, I feel, has really gotten bogged down. I agree that blue-sky thinking has sort of gone out of fashion. How much this is a function of perverse publishing incentives, administrative hurdles, or the constant firehose of publications to keep up with, I don’t know. I’m glad a prominent and highly respected figure in the science community is calling out the inefficiencies and problems in the way science is practiced.

Listen on The Economist website: How science can save the world
Listen on Overcast podcast app.