Government, Science and Technology

  • John Jewkes


It is frequently said that Great Britain is suffering from a shortage of scientists and technologists and of the means for conducting research and development and, since the study of shortages is the main interest of the economist, I propose to examine the reasons usually given for making this statement and to speculate a little about how a community can satisfy itself that it is devoting sufficient of its efforts to scientific and technical matters. As I shall try to explain in a moment, the scale of scientific activities in the country is determined by a very puzzling combination of public and private views, public and private action and, in the last resort, the striking of a right balance will inevitably be a matter of judgement and of intuition. Those who take sides too strongly, therefore, are not likely to give good advice, and I fear that, in recent years, some of those who have taken a vigorous part in the campaign for ‘selling science to the Establishment’ have been prone, with the best intentions in the world, to muddle up good arguments with bad and, paradoxically enough, to push the claims of science against the humane studies by making questionable use of history, economics, statistics and even perhaps educational theory.


High Technology Technical Progress Industrial Output Aircraft Industry Free Market Economic 
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  1. 1.
    The late Lord Cherwell, speaking in the House of Lords on 21 November 1956: ‘Humanistic studies are agreeable, and were very valuable in their day. But they do not really help the country to survive today … The fact remains that the people of this country must be fed and clothed … the contribution of a man like Whittle was even more helpful to the people of this country than the efforts of any Regius Professors of History in our own Universities.’ Also Sir Alexander Todd: ‘To suggest that more than a modest number of those now studying, say, history or literature in our universities were being trained to the best advantage was not only nonsense but at the present time, dangerous nonsense’ (The Times, 3 January 1957).Google Scholar
  2. 11.
    See in particular J. K. Galbraith, The Affluent Society, p. 99, and the British Annual Report of the Advisory Council on Scientific Policy, 1956–7, p. 5.Google Scholar
  3. 1.
    The Sources of Invention by J. Jewkes, D. Sawers and R. Stillerman, Macmillan, 1958.Google Scholar
  4. 2.
    M. Panic and A. H. Rajan, Product Changes in Industrial Countries’ Trade: 1955–1968, NEDO Monograph 2, 1971.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Duncan Burn, The Political Economy of Nuclear Energy, Research Monograph 9, IEA, 1967.Google Scholar

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© John Jewkes 1978

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  • John Jewkes

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