Edited by Hartmut Hirsch-Kreinsen and David Jacobson
Chapter 4: The Moral Economy of Technology Indicators
Benoît Godin INTRODUCTION In 1939 the British left-wing scientist J.D. Bernal suggested a type of measurement that became the main indicator of science and technology: the research budget as a percentage of the national income (Bernal, 1939). He compared the UK’s performance with that of the United States and the USSR, and suggested that Great Britain should devote between 0.5 per cent and 1 per cent of its national income to research. The number was arrived at by comparing expenditures in other countries, among them the United States, which invested 0.6 per cent, and the Soviet Union which invested 0.8 per cent, while Great Britain spent only 0.1 per cent. This certainly seems a very low percentage and at least it could be said that any increase up to tenfold of the expenditure on science would not notably interfere with the immediate consumption of the community; as it is it represents only 3 per cent of what is spent on tobacco, 2 per cent of what is spent on drink, and 1 percent of what is spent on gambling in the country. (Bernal, 1939: 64)1 The scale of expenditure on science is probably less than one-tenth of what would be reasonable and desirable in any civilized country. (Bernal, 1939: 65) Bernal was soon followed by many other organizations, among them the US President’s Scientiﬁc Research Board in a survey on government R&D. In 1947, the Board introduced into science policy the indicator ﬁrst suggested by Bernal,...
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