Together with some one hundred other hopeful Danish university academics, Søren and I spent three hours today listening to representatives of the Danish Council for Strategic Research instructing us how to write better applications for so called ‘strategic’ research projects in co-operation with Danish small and middle-sized corporations. It’s all about getting funding for projects that will promote long-term Danish economic interests; all us gathered in the room will compete for about 100 mill. euros in the September phase-2 application round. The success rate after having passed the first application round is about 33-50%, so we were all eagerly listening!
And then (inspired by Derek) I went home to read last week’s issue of Nature, in which cell biologist Theo Wallimann from ETH in Zürich writes (“European research needs a dash of anarchy”, Nature, vol. 453, p. 850) that “almost every significant breakthrough in the history of science has come about by serendipity — not as a result of strategic planning or problem-oriented and directed research”. And he continues:
Science and innovation are chaotic, stochastic processes that cannot be governed and controlled by desk-bound planners and politicians, whatever their intentions. Good scientists are by definition anarchists, who don’t want to be managed by what Gottfried Schatz of Biocenter Basel calls ‘chronoclasts’ — people whose bureaucracy steals their research time and blunts their creative potential. Good science has an inherent potential for self-organization.
What a schizophrenic day! In the morning we had our minds focused on how to get a grip on some of this strategic research money. And then, a few hours later, Wallimann’s call for a dash of anarchy.
The first thing that comes to mind is Nietzsche’s distinction between slave and master mentality.