Prometheus: Vol 15, No 2 (1997)

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Experiment and Evolution in Science and Technology Policy: Recent Australasian Experience
Peter Hall
Pages: 173-179

The Vexed Question of Research Priorities: An Australian Example
Don Aitkin
Pages: 181-195


This paper discusses the nature of the research priorities debate in Australia, and traces the working out of that debate over recent years. The discussion is embedded in an account of how the institutional structure developed to allocate funds for research and how mechanisms were put in place to try to establish national research priorities. It is argued that the prioritising processes developed by the Australian Research Council (ARC) and the Australian Science and Technology Council (ASTEC) during the 1980s and early 1990s are adaptable enough for current and future use, but that by 1996–7, the possibility of a sustained effort to work out national research priorities appeared remote.

Public Funding of Agricultural Research: Competitive Versus Non-Competitive Mechanisms
Clem Tisdell
Pages: 197-208


A substantial portion of agricultural research and development (R&D) is publicly funded. It is therefore, important to give attention to the socially ideal allocation and administration of funds for agricultural R&D as is done here. The types of mechanisms used to allocate these public funds and administer their uses can be expected to influence the research results produced and ultimately the level of returns or benefits obtained from this expenditure. Different public mechanisms for allocating and administering agricultural research funding are discussed from this point of view, paying attention to economic considerations. The non-competitive allocation of block grants to institutions is compared with their competitive allocation. Possibilities for allocation to sections of institutions or to individuals are also considered. Centralized versus decentralized mechanisms for allocating and administering R&D within organizations are discussed. In designing appropriate mechanisms for the allocation and administration of the use of public agricultural R&D funds, account needs to be taken of such factors as transaction costs, knowledge limitations, the importance of learning by doing the accretion of institutional capital and the collective accumulation of knowledge and skills within organizations. These factors together with market failures, limit the scope for efficient use of competitive mechanisms in allocating funds for agricultural R&D.

R&D Incentives and their Economic Outcomes in the Australian Context
Gerry Freed
Pages: 209-222


Research and development (R&D) is presented not as a primary source of local economic activity but as secondary to fundamental factors influencing corporate survival in small economies. The increasing difficulties of demonstrating causality between levels of Industrial R&D (IRD) expenditure and local economic activity are discussed. It is argued that industry specific, selective support schemes are more likely than generic tax concessions to be effective in periods of rapid trans-national restructuring. Such support appears of limited value unless aligned with a broader policy to assist local enterprises to adapt to competitive forces.

Defence R&D and the Management of Australia’s Defence Technology
Stefan Markowski , Peter Hall & Albert Dessi
Pages: 223-251


Technological innovation for defence-related purposes has often facilitated major advances of socio-economic significance well beyond the defence sector. In the post-Cold War era, government spending on military research and development (R&D) is falling around the world but for Australia, the changing strategic environment presents challenges which imply there may be substantial benefits from maintaining existing, modest levels of domestic R&D effort This paper examines the policy drivers in this area, embedding analysis of defence R&D spending in the broader processes of procuring R&D-intensive, hi-tech weapons systems. It concludes that if Australia is to reduce the inefficiencies often associated with defence procurement, it may need to have a core of defence-dedicated R&D undertaken by government itself.

CRCs and Transdisciplinary Research: What are the Implications for Science?
Tim Turpin
Pages: 253-265


A number of authors have recently proposed a future for science where the traditional academic mode of knowledge production, primarily organised on disciplinary lines, is largely replaced by a different mode of knowledge production that is more transient in its organisational forms.

If correct, the new mode of knowledge production has implications for the research cultures of universities, government research institutes, or industrial laboratories. But in particular, the trend has implications for research arrangements, such as Cooperative Research Centres (CRCs), because the CRCs seek to integrate, yet maintain, many of the characteristics of each sector that are likely to be significantly transformed by this new mode of knowledge production. Further, the CRCs themselves already reflect the salient characteristics proposed by this new mode of knowledge. It is therefore important to consider the impact that CRCs are having on the culture of science itself.

Policies for Transforming the Science and Innovation System in New Zealand: 1988–97
Peter Winsley & Laurie Hammond
Pages: 267-278


In 1989, the New Zealand Government initiated a fundamental reform of its science and technology system, leading to a transformation of science management in New Zealand. The politics that transformed the New Zealand science and innovation system in the last decade have established a system that is unique among OECD countries. Its transformation continues, through increasingly sophisticated attention to definition of outcomes and evaluation of performance at the strategic level. Its commitment to policy innovation will mean that the New Zealand system continues to be worthy of analysis in the next decade.

Page: 279