Much public debate about science and tech- . in a very rudimentary state compared with that H. Brooks / The relationship between science and technology. Science and Technology Studies (STS) is a relatively new academic field. in the relationship between scientific knowledge, technological systems, and society. how should states set priorities for research funding; who should participate. Feb 27, Opinion: How to bring science and technology expertise to state . the role of staff and relationships to lobbyists, the priorities of the state, and.
Today, the system by which research and development leads to new products is fundamentally different than it was in the nineteenth century. To the role of the individual inventor has been added the power of organized scientific research and technological innovation. Organized research and development, which are increasingly international in character, have greatly increased the production of new knowledge.
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Basic insights in materials science enable the development of structures that are lighter, stronger, and more durable than anything available before. The computer and novel modes of communication, such as optical fibers, bring new, interactive modes of work and more capable machinery.
These new devices and new ways of working, in turn, speed the growth and dissemination of new knowledge. The accumulation of scientific knowledge and new technologies has transformed human life. The rapid rate of material progress can continue, but it is not inevitable.
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The extent to which the products of science and technology are useful depends on the needs of society. Progress is more likely if we understand these differences. Only then can we effectively translate scientific and technical understanding into the techniques, tools, and insights that improve the quality of our lives.
Some, such as the semiconductor industry, the biotechnology industry, and parts of the chemical industry, were created and shaped almost entirely by ideas that grew out of science. The technologies at the heart of these industries were initially characterized more by promise than by real products. High-temperature superconductivity is a scientific discovery that shows promise of leading to new industries and is in this stage today. As science-based industries continue to develop, they remain closely dependent on continuous inputs of new science, often produced by university researchers.
These industries depend as well on the technological development of these ideas in order to grow and to widen their range of products. At an early stage, these industries tend to be small, to move at a fast technical and competitive pace, and to have enormous potential.
Biotechnology is now in this stage.
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In a more mature stage, a science-based industry may still be growing quickly, but it depends ess on the progress of academic scientists. The semiconductor industry, for example, moves at a fast technical pace and requires increasingly detailed knowledge of its materials and, as the individual transistors buried in its chips become ever smaller, even of new quantum phenomena. But its scientific needs are met almost entirely by the work of semiconductor scientists and engineers working in the plants and laboratories of the semiconductor companies.
Indeed, industry scientists are often the only ones with the detailed knowledge needed to make incremental improvements in the technologies.
Another example of an industry at a mature stage is the aircraft industry, where thousands of scientists and engineers are required to deal with the enormous complexities of new plane design.
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Investments in manufacturing tools and plants are often measured in hundreds of millions of dollars. Only major companies can act on this scale, and only they have the technological knowledge and experience needed to design these complex products.
They do, however, require the highest levels of technological and production know-how. For industries that rely on high technology but are technically self-contained such as the semiconductor industry and industries that do not depend heavily on current science such as the automobile industrythe results of current fundamental research are generally not decisive.
Japan, which has not been a leading research power, has exhibited great strength in such industries. In these areas, productivity gains and product leadership can be attained by a number of strategies largely separate from scientific research but highly dependent on engineering, such as developing new technology in corporate laboratories, improving the development cycle to hasten the marketing of improved products, better coordination of design and manufacture, maximizing the creative capabilities of employees, and responding quickly to changes in consumer preferences.
Additional university research can help, but it will be of peripheral importance to such industries. Nor can research rescue a failing industry that has difficulties in other areas.
As in the case of industry, many other factors must also be in place for the goals to be achieved, but science and technology provide many of the crucial insights and techniques that enable progress. The following sections briefly describe some of the linkages between science and technology and several of these goals. Health Care Maintenance of health and prevention of illness are among the highest goals of our society.
In health care, as in other areas, science and technology are embedded in much broader social and institutional structures. For example, a research discovery can lead to experimental products in a very short time. Yet those products may require very long lead times to bring to market because of the need to ensure their safety and efficacy. The most visible public policy issue in health care today is cost. Other new products derived from research and development, such as complex imaging devices and expensive surgical procedures, raise costs in the short term while enhancing overall care.
Still other procedures reduce unit treatment costs, but these reductions make treatments more available and thus increase demand and total costs. The development and pricing of health care products are unusual for a number of reasons. In a normal market economy, differences in the costs of technologies are reflected in the level of use.
But our current system of health care reimbursement insulates patients from the true costs. In addition, the government directly regulates many aspects of medical technology to ensure safety and control costs, further distorting market signals. Finally, health care involves such basic human conditions as birth, disease, and ultimately death. Under such conditions, individual consumers often ignore economic considerations; yet the total cost of health care is a matter of enormous national concern.
Featured author Andrew M. Colman is the author of A Dictionary of Psychology 4th edn. He is an author of numerous journal articles and several books, including Facts, Fallacies and Frauds in Psychology, What is Psychology?
I wish that everyone understood the scientific method, and in particular the unique importance of the controlled experiment as a method of scientific discovery. Children should be taught at school what an experiment is and why it is such a powerful way of discovering the truth.
Psychology uses various research methods, but the most powerful is undoubtedly controlled experimentation, not because it is more objective or precise than other methods, but because it is uniquely capable of providing evidence of causal effects. The defining features of an experiment are manipulation of a conjectured causal factor, called an independent variable because it is manipulated independently of other variables, and examination of the effect of this on a dependent variablewhile simultaneously controlling all other extraneous variables that might otherwise influence the dependent variable.
In psychological experiments, extraneous variables can seldom be controlled directly, partly because people differ from one another in ways that affect their behaviour. Inthe British statistician Ronald Fisher discovered a powerful method of control called randomization. By assigning subjects or participants to an experimental group and a control group strictly at random, and then treating the two groups identically apart from the manipulated independent variable applied to the experimental group onlyan experimenter can control, at a single stroke, for all individual differences and other extraneous variables, including ones that no one has even considered.
Randomization does not guarantee that the two groups will be identical but rather that any differences between the groups will follow precisely the known laws of probability. This explains the purpose and function of statistical significance tests in psychology. For any observed difference, a significance test enables a researcher to calculate the probability that a difference at least as large as the observed difference could occur by chance alone. The researcher then knows what the probability is of such a large difference under the null hypothesis — the working hypothesis that the independent variable has no effect.
If this immensely powerful idea were more widely understood, then people would be less vulnerable to illusory correlationmore sceptical about merely anecdotal evidence, and capable of interpreting findings from any survey research, case study, correlational study, observational study, or quasi-experiment with appropriate caution.