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How to Save America’s Knowledge Enterprise

For more than 50 years, America’s R&D system has remained fundamentally unchanged, according to the researchers, policymakers, and journalists who spoke at Monday’s Future Tense event, “How To Save America’s Knowledge Enterprise … From Tight Budgets, Primitive Myths, and the Shadow of Albert Einstein.” Held at the New America Foundation in Washington, D.C., How To Save America’s Knowledge Enterprise featured incisive critiques of the aging system that is incapable of helping us solve looming problems in medicine, energy, and business.

In opening remarks, Daniel Sarewitz, co-director of Arizona State University’s Consortium of Science, Policy, and Outcomes, noted that our current research enterprise is built on several assumptions: that the more money we put in, the more results we’ll accrue; that scientists should only be accountable to one another, via peer review; and that knowledge will always help. But these assumptions are deeply misguided: For instance, as we’ve learned more about climate change, we’ve seen only more carbon dioxide emissions, so knowledge isn’t by itself a solution to a problem.

By turns, the afternoon’s conversation discussed the problems faced and perpetuated by universities (both in carrying out research and in educating students), business, and government (as both funder and as researcher).

Read a complete recap of the event from Torie Bosch on Slate's Future Tense Channel