Century of Endeavour

'In Search of Techne'

(selections from the 1970s Irish Times Science and Technology Column)

Ch 1.1 - Science, Technology and the State

(c) Roy Johnston 2001

(comments to rjtechne@iol.ie)

The following sections form a chronological sequence within this blanket category. They appear substantially as published on the dates indicated.

Feb 3 1970

For most people, the workings of science and technology are remote, obscure and alien.Yet no-one now underestimates their influence in changing peoples' work, leisure and environment.

But the decisions controlling the investment of public money in science and technology are made by ordinary lay legislators and administrators, subject to the democratic process. The latter is meaningless unless the electorate is informed. So there is a need for a conscious effort to bridge the gap between the work of the scientist and the public. This is the role of the science correspondent, or the popularising journal.

Scientific journalism in Ireland is in its infancy. There is no Irish analogue of the 'New Scientist'. There are a few periodicals with specialist readerships such as 'Technology Ireland' and the ' Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy'. There are student ephemera such as 'Kosmos'. Newspaper scientific journalism tends to follow international 'big' science and technology; the 'space-race', from the first Sputnik to the moon landing, has called forth a spate of lay-oriented articles by scientists, in an attempt to satisfy public curiosity about the spectacular.

The lack of balanced scientific journalism is a consequence, rather than a cause, of the lack of any national scientific consciousness, expressed either in a periodical or an event. There is no annual science festival; no science analogue of the Feis Ceoil(1), or Irish analogue of the annual jamboree of the British Association. The annual Aer Lingus Young Scientists' Exhibition(2) has aroused interest and curiosity, but this is the seed corn, not the harvest. There have been stirrings in this direction by the Regional Scientific Councils(3). Of this more should be heard. But it may be some time before the reticence of the scientists to popularise their ideas breaks down to the extent that this process becomes fashionable, rather than something slightly low-brow, if not actually verging on the disgraceful.

A science policy may be said to exist if somewhere in the State structure there exists a body competent to decide on the allocation of funds between the possible types of scientific activity, with effective powers to do so. The absolute size of the funds available is not a matter for science policy but for national policy. It is up to the scientists to fight politically to ensure that the size of the science budget is adequate. In doing so, they have to produce arguments to show that the spending of money on science and technology is nationally beneficial; the existence of a rational decision-process within science itself strengthens the political voice of scientists in national budgetary policy.

The development of cience policy-making in Ireland, like science journalism, is in its infancy. Leaving aside for the present the question of Northern science and the Westminster Government(4), the principal policy centre is the National Science Council. This was set up in December 1967 '..to advise the Government on science and technology, with particular reference to economic development.' Its establishment followed a period of consultation by the Government of the various organisations representing and employing scientists and technologists. There had previously been published, in November 1966, a comprehensive study of research and development in Ireland, under the title 'Science and Economic Development', advocating the establishment of such a policy centre.

The members of the Council are appointed by the Minister for Finance; they hold office for a period of four years(5). Although appointed in their own right, they are intended to be broadly representative of the principal commercial users of scientific research, together with the universities.

One of the functions of the National Science Council has been to serve as a statistical centre for information about about resource allocation in science and technology. The first of a series of surveys has just been published: 'Research and Development in Ireland in 1967' by Diarmuid Murphy (Govt Publications, 3/6)(6).

This survey covers manpower, costs per man, types of activity, sources of funds etc in four main sectors: government, higher education, private non-profit and commercial....

The national expenditure on research and development, including the social sciences, is allocated as follows (£M):

            General Government     3.12
            Business               2.21
            Higher Education        .98
            Private non-profit      .13
            Total                  6.49

The numbers of people engaged in this work are given; anyone wanting the figures as published should go to the Report. The uncertainty as to what constitutes research and development should be bourne in mind when considering them. I prefer to regard them as approximate and to say that in 1967 there were about 3000 people involved, of which nearly half were graduates and about a third were technicians. This low proportion of technicians is a confirmation of what we all knew, namely, that most graduates are working below their potential, as technicians rather than rsearchers proper. Many graduates feel this keenly and are conscious of the need to open up technicianship as a respected and worthwhile career such as to attract people to it.

Over half these R and D workers were in the Government sector, which includes the major applied science research institutes.

In the sector on international comparisons, Ireland comes low in the league, whether measured in absolute terms, per head of population or per unit of GNP. On any measure, Ireland comes up in the group which contains Yugoslavia, Finland and Greece. It is noteworthy that Norway, a nation of population comparable to that of the Irish Republic, on the 'per unit of GNP' measure is in the median group which includes Japan, Sweden, Belgium and Canada.

The National Science Council, as at present constituted, has little direct control over this expenditure. It has, however, under its direct control an annual grant of £100,000 which it can allocate as it sees fit. The 1969 allocation was mainly for basic research in the universities. About 10% of the projects for which funds were asked for were supported.

Apart from this, the NSC can be regarded as being influential, or potentially influential, in that its advice is sought by the Dept of Finance , which controls the funds for all major science and technology expenditure, including the private sector (by taxation policy). It has no control over external financing of Irish research; this in 1967 amounted to £.161M, of which £.126M was spend in the higher education sector.

The main channels of government expenditure are:

      Agriculture, forestry, fisheries:     70.6%
      Industry                              12.2%
      Construction and Transport             5.5%
      Underdeveloped Areas                   6.0%

The first three are mainly accounted for by an Foras Taluntais(7),the Institute of Industrial Research and Standards and an Foras Forbartha respectively. The funds are channels via the Departments of Agriculture, Industry and Commerce, and Local Government. The Higher Education Sector is mainly under the Dept of Education; it includes the Royal Irish Academy (this is the internationally recognised learned body which is the equivalent of the Royal Society in Britain) and the Institute of Advanced Studies.

Feb 4 1970

Let us try now to illumine something of the dynamics of the activities that lie behind Diarmuid Murphy's disembodied figures.

The main stimulus for scientific advance has been a two-way flow of people, ideas and devices between economic life, technology, applied science and pure science. If the environment encourages this flow across the barriers, then rapid progress takes place.

The second world war gave rise to an unprecedented breakdown of barriers; the injection of a handful of pure scientists into research and development on weapons resulted in a number of novel technologies which have since dominated the scientific world: nuclear energy, the computer, the family of microwave technologies descended from radar.

Basic research is still dominated by the momentum of these major scientific breakthroughs of the forties. But the actual research has ceased to be carried on towards any goal; the specialists have again become in-bred. It seems that a national emergency is needed to produce a strong enough motivation to break down the barriers and cause the necessary cross-fertilisation between principle and practice. Or does it? Is a structure not conceivable such that, if someone in development work at the industrial level is unable to solve a problem, he circumvents it temporarily and passes it on to the applied science people, who in turn interest the basic research people if the problem turns out to involve some novel principle?...

If this free flow of ideas existed, the formulation of a science policy would become easier, in that the level of basic research activity would be determined by the number of problems of principle thrown up by the applied science people in the research institutes and industry, supplementing the international concensus among working scientists. If the resources devoted to applied scientific research are any indication, the bulk of the home-generated stimulus for basic research should arise in connection with agriculture. One would expect the relative centralisation of agricultural research in one organisation to act as a generator of a sense of purpose and personal dedication to a greater extent than in industrial research, where the resources (though comparable) are scattered, competitive and often subsidiary to a foreign head-office. Researchers under such conditions are unlikely to be in a position to recognist the fundamental problems and to pass the on to their basic research colleagues. In agriculture, with the existing unified organisational structure this process is at least possible.

One of the purposes of this series of articles will be to seek out the qualitatively significant features of the research behind Diarmuid Murphy's figures, and where they show evidence of creative cross-fertilisation in the Irish context, to investigate the process in some depth, with the conviction that this will help to make known the existence of growing- points in the development of a national consciousness of science.

Let me try to illustrate what I am getting at with a rather messy and half-baked example from my own recent experience, which suggests the possibility of a creative linkage between economic planning, with computer-based management information systems, and the unlikely science of thermodynamics.

In modelling a productive system for planning purposes, a quantity which cannot be ignored is 'management costs'. Accountants tend to lump this in with the rent and the phone bill and call it 'overheads'. This however is unsatisfactory, as one needs some rule which relates costs to the volume of activity. However, analysis shows that while some costs are volume-dependent in the long run, the bulk of the costs due to management proper are derived from the fact that the process is subject to variability: contingencies have to be planned for, quality maintained despite raw material changes etc. Statisticians are familiar with many appropriate measures of variability. However, in order to get a feel for the long-term behaviour of management costs, one needs a generalised measure of muddle or mess, such that the management process can be measured by the rate of its reduction. Such a measure exists and is known as entropy.

CP Snow distinguished his 'two cultures' by whether they understood this concept or not; it underlies the Second Law of Thermodynamics. I think Snow overestimates the impregnability of the inter-cultural wall; I have had a creditable account of this famous law given me by Anthony Cronin, whose standing as a man of letters few would contest. It is not a difficult concept to understand:if you turn your back on life, your affairs get in a mess. Life is a struggle against a rising tide of entropy. Your ability to cope is measured by the extent to which you can keep this tide at bay.

It requires work to keep things in order. There is therefore a relationship between work (or energy) and entropy. These two quantities are, in thermodynamics, related by an important and familiar factor, the temperature. The product of entropy and temperature has the same measure ('dimension' in the sense used in physics) as energy; it is therefore directly related to cost. Thus we are hot on the trail of a quantitative basic theory of management costs, rooted in theoretical principles of some subtlety. One can go on to identify 'temperature' in the management sense with the rate of change of entropy, or in effect the ability of management to reduce entropy rapidly. A 'hot' management in a high-entropy situation could give rise to an excessive overhead. One needs as 'cool' a management as possible, leaving a residual non-zero entropy level which is acceptable.

Those engaged in the day-to-day struggle against the rising tide of entropy are unlikely to be able to devote time to the design of entropy-pumps; they just have to keep on baling out the ship. Their morale however might be improved if they know that someone, somewhere, was engaged in this task, and was interested in their experience.

This particular concept has given rise to several University seminars, and at least one MSc thesis... However entropy itself is not saleable information. Cost-reduction is; the transition from the former to the latter remains an opportunity for the creative practical academic fraternity.....

Examples along the above lines, in various branches of science, will be grist to the mill of this series. Most science writers... are inclined to illustrate 'in the large', using examples from 'big' science (eg nuclear physics, molecular biology etc) or from the history of science (18th century mathematics and the needs of navigation etc). These areas have been explored by writers such as JD Bernal(8) and JG Crowther. It will be the policy of this series to investigate this process in the rather small, but for us significant, local context. To do this will require leads, informal contacts, suggestions, answers to the question 'what piece of reserach going on in Ireland now has its roots in a real problem posed by the economic life of the people of Ireland, and has ramifications into university research in the fundamentals?'

For if a science policy is to be developed intelligently it must favour this process or be a failure. It must convert the walls between the compartments into selective filters such as to pass people, hardware, ideas, principles from one area to another.

Another question that can be asked is: 'what are the obstacles at present to this process?'. Are there areas of research going on in boxes where the roots are starved of nutrient and the branches are stunted or lopped, and where the people concerned are aware enough to be frustrated? This series will have supplied a need if enough people read it and supply feed-back such as to make these investigations possible.

Feb 19 1970

Important statements on National Science Council policy emerged in a little-publicised lecture to the Institute of Chemistry by Professor Colm O h-Eocha, Chairman of the NSC and holder of the UCG Biochemistry chair.

He made a strong case for the existing NSC policy of financing basic research, both as an aid to education and as a means of keeping good researchers in Ireland. But he went on the question whether the typical young researcher is in fact dedicated to basic research 'for its own sake', especially when the topic is not his own choice but his professor's.

Why, asked Professor O h-Eocha, should it not be accepted that good basic research can be tied to a socially desirable goal? It is this idea, he stated, that underlies the award of NSC grants.

A look at the NSC list of awards confirms this, although close reading between the lines might reveal the occasional hobby-horse dressed up in working clothes. And there do seem to be gaps in the range of sciences covered, notably physics. This may say more about the state of physics in Ireland than about the judgment of the NSC.

If the Department of Finance takes the advice of the NSC, we can expect to see some significant changes, such as the concentration of research into 'centres of excellence', financially self-supporting and linked to the outside world through special consultancy units. Closer links between the Applied Research Institutes and the Universities are projected, with mobility of staff. (How? There is some tricky institutional politics here which will be interesting to watch).

'Research Parks' for international companies are projected, with tax incentives (again: how this would integrate into the national economic life is by no means obvious; they could become 'brain-sponges' mopping up Irish know-how and sequestering it incommunicado).

A warning note was sounded regarding the role of the in-house civil-service scientific adviser to Government; these were held to be out of touch and sometimes became road-blocks standing in the way of good proposals. Professor O h-Eocha finally urged the development of a cohesive common view among the scientific community regarding the priorities, and welcomed the establishment of voluntary groupings among scientists to this end.

The NSC as it stands constituted at present is not itself representative enough to fulfil this function, a fact pointed out by critics at its inception. It is to the credit of the NSC that it recognises the need for such a consensus-generating structure. A body called the 'Society for Social Responsibility in Science' has recently been formed in the UK. Perhaps this is a label for the concept in Professor O h-Eochsa's mind? Or perhaps the idea could be fleshed out by digging out the various submissions that went into the Government regarding the structure of the NSC prior to its inception?(9).....

Feb 25 1970

Professor O h-Eocha...on Jan 28 delivered what amounted to a policy statement to a meeting of the Institute of Chemistry (as).. part of a systematic kite-flying operation by the NSC in various sectors of the scientific community. His latest foray was last Friday into the camp of the economists and statisticians; he read a paper to the Statistical and Social Inquiry Society in which he called for a 'Science Budget' and nailed the flag '1% of GNP by 1973' to the mast.

The fact that the meeting was chaired by Dr TK Whitaker(10) of the Department of Finance, and that the vote of thanks was proposed by Professor Patrick Lynch(11) and seconded by Dr Tom Walsh(12) helped to justify the front-page treatment given...by this newspaper. The topic must be taken seriously, or else such national independence as we have got is in danger of being seriously undermined....

What is a science budget? Professor Oh-Eocha defines it as the adopting of accounting practices in all organisations involved in any kind of scientific or technological research, development or innovation, such as to bring out the resources devoted to this activity(13). It would then be possible at national level to know how things were developing without having to engage in expensive and time-consuming ad-hoc survey work...

It is not suggested that the budget should be subjected to any kind of centralised control; if however the information were available the government would be able to adjust its taxation or grant policy so as to help channel its resources to the productive research areas....

The core of the proposed policy for spending more money is contained in the following paragraph...: '...with the co-operation of many others both inside and outside the public service, the Council hopes to select those areas of the economy which ow real growth potential.....such a sectoral, as distinct to institutional , approach to research and development is...more likely to benefit the economy in the long run'.

Three sectoral areas have already been defined...mineral resources, marine resources and food.....these have been officially incorporated in the Third Programme.

We should look in future for the effects of this recommendation.

Aug 5 1970

The list of grants awarded by the NSC for 1970-71 has become available; the amount of money ..amounts to £120,000, two thirds in the form of initial grants and one third in the form of continuation grants from last year.

Comparing with last year, it seems that there is a wider spread. While last year the grants were split roughly equally between the four main colleges (TCD,UCD,UCG,UCC), this year shows a trend towards other bodies: Pharmacy, Surgeons, the Institute of Advanced Studies, ..AFT. Classification by discipline is more difficult, which is a good thing, in that it suggests that the walls between the boxes are beginning to become permeable. Lat years projects all fell neatly into the major academic disciplines; this year there are some projects in interdisciplinary technologies such as food science and bio-engineering, as well as one bordering between engineering and physics. If there appears to be a drift away from organic chemistry towards biology and physics, this could be interpreted as pressure from those who got left out last time. The classified distributions are shown in Table 1 (by institution) and Table 2 (by speciality).

                                  Table 1
                          69-70       70-71
            TCD             4           5
            UCD             5           8
            UCG             5           1
            UCC             3           4.5
            Surgeons        0           1
            Pharmacy        0           1
            DIAS            0           1
            AFT             0            .5

                                  Table 2
                               69-70    70-71
            Organic Chemistry    5        1
            Physical Chemistry   1        0
            Inorganic Chemistry  2        1
            Biochemistry         1        2
            Biology              2        5
            Chem Engineering     2        2
            Mech Engineering     2        0
            Electrical Eng       1        0
            Geology              1        1 
            Bio-engineering      0        1
            Food Science         0        3
            Applied Physics      0        2
            Pure physics         0        5

The NSC in the introductory notes remarked that only 63 applications were received this year, compared to over 100 last year. This would appear to rflect a degree of disillusion among researchers arising from the low success rate in the previous year: less than 15%. Why should researchers spend time and effort dressing up their ideas to look like what they think the NSC wants? Clearly, many of them this year decided is wasn't worth the effort.

Before expanding on how I feel that the NSC grants ought to be awarded, I should mention two projects which look as if they might be commercially important. The first is shared between the Moorepark centre of AFT and the UCC Dairy and Food Microbiology Department, and involves the development of a continuous fermentation process for producing cheese-starter organisms.

If this is successful (and if so, it will be success on a shoestring, at £2378) as a commercial process, we must see to it that its use is spread throughout the industry, with the money coming in for premium-quality cheese exports, before a word is published. If this is the strategy, well and good. But I fear it may not be. There is an academic tradition which extends to AFT which seems to regard the published paper as the end-product. There are signs that this is changing.... A project like this, if taken in the international tradition of academic science, is from the national point of view handing our R and D on a plate to our competitors.

Also, I feel that this project should be between Moorepark and Mitchelstown Creamery, rather than the former and UCC, with Mitchelstown paying for the work, as a prime beneficiary. I say this because running a continuous fermentation under laboratory conditions is not a problem; any undergraduate could do it. The problem, I suggest, is in adapting the process to industrial conditions....

Also I am slightly sceptical about the project on gamma-ray sterilisation as a supplement to heat sterilisation in the food and pharmaceutical industries. Many millions have been spent over the past 20 years by the US nuclear-products industries on this problem, and I doubt if 4627 pounds spend in the College of Pharmacy will bring any breakthrough.....

Oct 14 1970

..I now want to draw attention to another aspect of the IIRS annual report, one which relates to what I said about the NSC grants on August 5.

I refer to the question of money spent on equipment. Analysing the IIRS reports over the years since the 'new deal' in 1962, one finds that the ratio of equipment expenditure to total grant has been declining from 46% in 1962/3 down to 4% in 1970/1. There is slight peaking .. in 65/6 (36%) and 68/9 (11%), but the general shape of the curve is one of decay from the first flush of inaugural enthusiasm. The ratio of equipment to salaries runs from 75% to 7%.

Talking to Institute staff confirms this: there is considerable and increasing frustration at the administrative attitude to new equipment. What is the use of expensive training and maintenance of skilled people, if they are refused the tools they know they need? Administrators treat scientists looking for equipment as if they were children asking for expensive toys. They forget that scientists and technicians, if they don't get the equipment, will make it themselves, or improvise a substitute, investing their own expensive time.

Equipment is blocked because it is suggested that there would be inadequate 'utilisation'; an expensive piece of equipment usually resides outside the administrator's office which is used perhaps 5% of the time: his car. One does not buy specialist equipment for utilisation but for accessibility...

This attitude of mind is the same as that which dominates the thinking of the NSC, where small grants are doled out to a small fraction of applicants after spending money on having the proposals vetted by anonymous consultants on obscure criteria...

The recipe used to be 'take your hobby-horse project and dress it up to look like it might have an application of national economic importance......but this recipe no longer holds and the criteria have again become obscure....

The Irish Management Institute recently put on some seminars by Raymond I Reul, of the FMC Corporation, a firm whose turnover is of the order ofthe Irish GNP. Ray Reul's job is to manage the R and D budget; he gave a useful quantitative guide to how to evaluate projects in a commercial environment. The NSC however appeared to be too busy to want to know.

We are dealing with good, well-intentioned people, with inadequate resources, who have allowed themselves to be dominated by an administrative structure and by administrative methods of work.

There is an alternative procedure for handling research grants, which I now propose. It is to strike a rate for the equipment grant for all scientific ant technological manpower in the public service, say 25% of payroll. Split this up according to rules, giving the people concerned control over their 'tool money' at a rate related to their level of responsibility(14), and to spend it at their discretion. Thus the rate might be 10% for a junior, 25% for an unsupervised senior without management function, and 25% plus the balance to make up 25% for those under him/her for a senior having management responsibilities.

Within this framework let the people concerned spend, save, mortgage, horsetrade, buy outside services or whatever, without any administrative interference....If one particular person chooses to drink his tool money or keep a mistress, no doubt his colleagues would comment on it. No doubt you would need some elementary book-keeping. But the basic principle is clear: give people responsibility and stop treating them like children. The NSC, or other financing body, would have its work raised to the level of deciding on the broad features of the allocation: maybe it should be 50% for marine science, or maybe 25% for agriculture is too much, cut it to 20%.

It could also award supplementary grants to co-operative projects, where the people concerned had jointly raised a substantial sum by pooling their resources, and showed evidence of being on to a good idea. In other words, the present system, buy scaled up to the level of the viable collective team, with 10 or more who already control (say) 10,000 pounds per annum as of right and who need twice the amount to do what they want. Co-operative enterprise would thus be rewarded, while no-one would be left in the cold.

Maybe I have struck a figure whichis too low, but 25% at present to the IIRS workers would be el Dorado....

Could not the same principle be extended to the arts? ... The way would then be open to joint projects between the sciences and arts...

A worker on a building site gets tool money, and buys and maintains his own tools. Is it too much to ask that our researchers be given the same privilege?

Oct 6 1971

..I am convinced that in Ireland there is an undue relative emphasis on basic research, and that the development end of the spectrum is weak. But I feel I should try and explain how at the same time I consider basic research important, and how I feel it should fit in to the overall structure....

(resumés of lectures by V Weisskopf at the RIA on 'new insights into the structure of matter' and S Spiegelman at the Biochemical Society on nucleic acids and the replication process..)

Both these lectures were exciting and had an aesthetic appeal, like a good concert of music. Their value however is not only aesthetic. Students and researchers exposed to contact with this type of work, if they are able to lateralise their thinking, can become people who are capable of building an imaginative theoretical system to explain what goes on in any 'black box' in any problem situation.

Any problem can be related to the 'black box' concept; the hypothesis is the conjectures structures within it. One can observe the inputs and relate them to outputs, with account being taken of the 'state' variables related to the internal structures, which contain possibly a history of previous inputs. If, knowing the inputs over a period, you can predict the outputs to a degree adequate for your purpose, you have a solution.

A scientific mind that has been sharpened on basic research can, if its owner chooses, apply itself to the analysis of any useful or interesting system, and to the synthesis of new systems. This is the great unrealised potential of basic research; it is unrealised because the prevailing mores and ideological conditioning have turned basic research in on itself. It has become a self-perpetuating system, from which the transfer of knowledge, experience and techniques into the outside world is fortuitous.

There are those who think that this is as it should be.....one could however equally well argue that because there is a random element in the man-woman relationship one can do nothing to increase the marriage rate. A progressive government, if it wished, could provide social clubs and dowries with a view to easing the transition from one state into the other, without influencing the choice of partner. Similarly, a progressive government could ease the flow of ideas between the basic and applied sectors by legislating for easy mobility of personnel in both directions.....

..Full-time basic research...can be as corrosive of the personality as is full-time teaching without research.... let the lecture-load of the teachers be lightened, and let there be complete mobility of people throughout the basic research, applied research and educational systems...

The same problem exists at the interface between the applied researcher and the viable economic system.....to get effective innovation in agriculture you need to give the innovator a chance to interact strongly with the manager of an agricultural system, or even to become the manager of such a system for a period. This happens, but all too rarely. The administrative obstacle is that jobs in the three systems (AFT, the advisory service and the co-ops) tend to be regarded as 'permanent and pensionable'. Project teams based on temporary appointments or secondments are rarely encountered.....

I know that many of the problem-oriented projects are derived by interactions with the advisory service. But I suspect that many are invented by the researchers. There is no way of knowing this at present. There would be, however, if each project involved a cash transaction with the co-op or organisation that wanted the problem solved...This would carry a Government subsidy. The Director could then decide on an allocation of a certain proportion of the notional profit to a set of internally-generated projects of a longer-term nature. I understand from Dr Walsh that this is beginning to happen, and that sponsored projects are the coming thing....

Jan 12 1972

In the booklet 'Research and Development in Ireland 1969' by Diarmuid Murphy and Donal O Brolchain...there are some tables in the 'business enterprise sector' which enable a 'technological balance of trade to be derived. Total expenditure by the sector within itself is £3.4M. The top four spenders are food and drink, electrical/electronic, utilities and chemicals/drugs. Nearly all of this money (£3.35M) is from the firms' own funds. The vast bulk of the expenditure is on experimental development (81.8%) rather than applied research (15.4%). There are about 900 people employed, of whom 342 are graduates.

Now comes the punch-line: in addition to all this, there is £1.077M spent on outside contract research, of which only £0.143M goes to Ireland. The rest goes abroad, mainly to the US (£0.402M) and the UK (£0.223M).

To balance this, there is the possibility of Irish firms exporting research and development. The measure of the weakness of this aspect may be obtained by consulting the table which gives the sources of R&D funds for the business sector: only &0.037M came from abroad. Thus our industrialists buy in knowhow to the extent of 1.077M and sell it only to the extent of 0.037M, a ratio of 29 to 1.

This is decidedly unhealthy. It suggests that if we are only able to export to that extent, our discrimination in what we buy in is open to question. It also suggests that in view of the fact that most of the firms concerned are foreign-owned, it is the current practice for them to 'buy in' research from their central laboratories elsewhere.

This need not be so. It is the function of the NSC to advise the Government. It could make the case that all foreign firms with productive units here should be pressed, with hard knowledgeable arguments backed by changes in taxation policy, to upgrade their Irish-based R and D effort.

For example, in cases where Ireland is a substantial source of high- grade raw material, specialist research into various associated natural products could be concentrated here. Research in this field could then become an export.

The exporting of high-grade technology from Ireland is not new; there are civil engineering consortia doing it. Our national airline has exported economic planning services to Malta and Algeria. At least one firm known to me in the computer software business has exported top-grade work to France and the United States. (This firm, I understand, finds it easier to export than to sell on the home market. The Irish business sector apparently finds it hard to believe that this type of expertise is available within Ireland and prefers to buy abroad!)

But the balance of trade is very heavily against us. We export the graduates instead.

May 31 1972

The Cork Regional Scientific Council and the National Science Council combined on May 19-20 to hold a conference ..'Towards a Science Policy'...in the Silver Springs Hotel...with an invited audience.

The motivation behind the event was to produce an audience for Dr Francois Chesnais, of the OECD. This body is a living example of bureaucratic inertia; it survived the demise of its original raison d'etre, the Marshall Plan. Sometimes a legitimate reason for continuation can be contrived; in this case the basis is the existence of a market for recommendations by foreign experts. The OECD people provide an external catalyst whereby the people who know what needs to be done in their own countries, but are not listened to, can pull in outsiders to say for them what needs to be said. The same is true of the external consultant relative to the firm.

As well as an audience, the conference was supposed to provide some feedback to Dr Chesnais. It was planned for Cork because Ireland in microcosm exists there; in Dublin it would have been harder to pull together a representative group without causing offence to one or other excluded group or person.

This problem exists because there are no democratic channels whereby a representative group can be constructed for an occasion like this. An invited audience could be put together in Cork with some semblance of being representative. The machinery of the Cork RSC in fact forms a good working basis for democratic development. Such machinery is absent from Dublin.

Dr Chesnais said that there is no such thing as 'national science policy' anywhere. The concept had emerged in the large nations in relation to wartime goals, and subsequently in the 'space race'. The idea appeared to be that government-sponsored research and development in relation to procurement contracts would 'spin off' into profitable applications. This concept is wearing badly; small countries cannot afford to be so inefficient.

Small countries, instead, have to adopt a more direct way of relating science to economic life. They can import technology, but they must have a threshold of expertise within the nation, which knows how to choose. Some centres in Latin America are well 'wired in' to the international network, but no-one at home knows to consult them. (This, of course, is the pattern of existence of the Irish university research scene over most of its fields, as indicated by me in this series since the start, and now confirmed quantitatively by Professor Allen of MIT, whose work I hope to get around to describing before long)(15).

Seven or eight years ago it was fashionable to talk of '1% of GNP' as being a norm for expenditure on science. This was 'old hat', it lacked meaning; it was necessary to look at the specifics of conveying the technology to the user...

Thus far Dr Chesnais. Professor O h-Eocha then took up the matter of problem definition. Were we talking of policy for science, or for its use? The scientist needs to be involved in identifying the problem and structuring it, as well as solving it. How do we evolve a national goal? How do we reconcile long-term payoff with changes in government?....the Irish Congress of Trade Unions regarded technology simply as a redundancy-generator: why had they not evolved a science policy?

Professor O h-Eocha went on to note the pathological demographic structure and its negative influence on entrepreneurship(16). He admitted that the concept of importing technology through the multinational corporations created problems, and indicated the need for schemes for introducing technology to industry by NSC-instigated budgetary devices (as yet unspecified).

Dr FJ Kelly, of the Canadian NSC, stated that the real challenge was to introduce Irish-owned industry to the concept of technological innovation. Dr Kelly was inclined to erect a mental barrier by categorising industry as being either 'production oriented' or 'innovation oriented'; the former throws up a management that is opposed to the innovation concept.

(In the writer's experience, this is an artificial dichotomy, arising from the false identification of the concepts 'innovation' and 'new product'. Pelican published a book entitled 'the Innovators'(17); on the cover was a can with a zip fastener on it, suggesting, correctly, that most innovations are frivolous or trivial. On the other hand, it is of great interest to production-oriented management to cut its costs; this is the way in to industry for Irish-based scientific technology of the kind that the NSC is trying to promote. Once dialogue has begun, ideas for new products will follow.)

Dr Kelly, from his few months in Ireland, was willing to suggest diffidently that our State support was about average, the quality of the work up to international standard; there were plenty of ideas, but we were weak in management, weak in mobility of people with know-how, and weak in the synthesis of information into productive systems.

Taking innovation in the non-frivolous, need-based sense, Dr Kelly outlined seven factors which had emerged as common ground in a number of studies:

1.Recognition of a need is more effective than the utilisation of a discovery;

2.The user's needs must dominate the whole development period;

3.Most abandonments are due to the market turning out too small;

4.Technology can easily be acquired;

5.Most innovations are relatively inexpensive (<$100K);

6.Successful innovations have good science close at hand;

7.Innovations occur when you have people who have moved around.

Dr Kelly concluded by saying that Ireland had all the machinery, but it was just not connected up to any transmission. He also laid down the principle that there ought to be as national goal a balanced trade in technology, this being equivalent to a fair international share of the interesting jobs.. This angle is of interest for the evolution of trade-union science policy.

Mr G Sweeney of the Technical Information Division of IIRS then outlined the concept of an information service, calling for the establishment of a specialist centre, with linguistic skills. He stated that currently the easy channel (customer-supplier) was used, even if the information was unreliable. Advanced library systems were no use unless there was an informed personal link between the library andthe user... the personal link should be in industry, close to the problems, and with enough knowledge to know where to begin to look...

Professor Scott of UCC reacted sharply to the Sweeney paper; he felt that the university information network was as good as any and didn't need any improvement (thus showing that he had missed the point). Sweeney had the chance to come back at him, but didn't rise to it. There was however little discussion time, at which points like this could have been teased out. Professor Scott....was upset by the cynical laughter which occurred when Dr Kelly made his remark about the finely-tuned machine waiting to be connected up......he appeared to think that lecturing at managers would persuade them to but scientists; this is not the case. It is necessary for the scientists themselves to decide first what they have to sell, and then to organise to put it in the shop window, develop a marketing campaign, including one or two 'loss leaders', and woo the customer. Academic arrogance is a quality that will be listened to with decreasing attention...

Dr D Scholefield, the UCD appointments officer, painted a gloomy picture of job prospects in the coming years; it became clear from his remarks that employers were just not thinking in terms of offering jobs to science graduates.

Dr Ed Walsh, of the Limerick National Institute of Higher Education, was more optimistic. He, and some of his staff who were there, were convinced that they had the recipe whereby industry could be committed to taking in the graduates by involving them inthe training process; the NIHE expected to turn out people who would create their own jobs and ultimately become employers of other people.

Both these apparently contradictory positions are right, in their own environments. The traditional universities will have to take a much more responsible position regarding what they turn out, if we are not to be flooded with misfits in five years sime...

Although interesting, and in some ways perhaps seminal, this conference never sparkled. It all seemed too well-regulated and gentlemanly; no really sharp discussion developed. The procedure of taping everything for subsequent publication had a deadening effect, as also had the sheer volume of the material. The amount of positive feedback of use for policy-making was, in my opinion, about a tenth of the potential from the people concerned. The full feedback could have been obtained if the conference had been better structured. We seem, in this country, to be masters of the art of organising non-events for the purpose of making it look as if there is democratic consultation. The annual IMI jamboree is, perhaps, the outstanding example of this phenomenon. Scientists ought to know better.

Jan 3 1973

The bid made by the National Science Council to become a central resource-allocating body for both IIRS and AFT, in a report dated August 1972, came in for a rough passage at a seminar in the Institute of Public Administration shortly afterwards. This has been reported, with some time-lag, in the December issue of Leargas, the IPA monthly. ...Mr Henning Friis, Director of the Danish Research Institute, threw cold water on the idea of a centrally co-ordinated science policy, although he considered it useful to have an 'over-view' body to watch for underdeveloped areas....

In the aftermath of the IPA seminar have come a series of NSC reports , as if making up for lost time, and providing belated justification for the 'acceptance in principle' of the August report by the Government.. prior to its issue. I take it that 'acceptance'... implies 'acceptance as a basis for discussion'. The NSC, by conveying, or attempting to convey a sense of 'fait accompli' is rather visibly trying to 'pull a fast one'.

The IPA seminar, as reported in Leargas, has definitely established that a broader NSC is agreed in principle, but that allocative powers are subject to further examination and consultation.

The subsequent NSC documents include: (1) a Review of Scientific and Technical Information in Ireland (RSTI, Nov 72), (2) Progress Report 1964-71 (Nov 72), (3) Report on the IIRS 5-year Plan (Dec 72).

The RSTI... has shown up one serious weakness in Irish industry: relying on the salesman for technical information related to equipment. This report is the first study on this topic to be carried out in Europe; it was done as an OECD pilot-project.

It states that £3.4M were spent on 'STI' annually and that there is no organisation with 'national responsibility' for it. Presumably this task will help justify the existence of the extended NSC. It could be carried out usefully, if proper attention is paid to the needs of the user of 'STI'. The NSC, on past performance, has not been conspicuous for its attention to peoples needs; it has been more concerned with conforming to traditional categories, structures and bureaucratic procedures, both in Ireland and in Europe.

The Progress Report contains a summary of the various recommendations made tothe Government over the period.... There is talk of 'transfer of technology' and some realisation of the possible role of returned emigrants. There is talk of priority areas: meat, dairy produce, convenience foods, marine resources, fermentation. Most of the work of the Council has been at the verbal recommendation stage. It is difficult to point to any significant action that had resulted. Committees proliferate; they are all listed in the appendix. This is the English gentleman-amateur tradition.

Among the actions worthy of note is the appointment of an Industrial Liaison Officer in TCD, Justin Wallace. This has potential for producing research-projects with subsequent job-generating potential. The same is being done at UCG; UCD however has opted to take a Research Fellow in Science Policy instead.

The other actions ...are the awards of funds to university research projects. This scheme I have criticised before. It is currently in disrepute among academic scientists: it splits the world into the 'ins' and the 'outs', and suffers from all the snags of stop-go economic 'planning'. Finance for basic research related to higher education ought to be on a steady basis: there is no rational way of choosing between projects at the level of detail exhibited in the NSC grant scheme. Laser-induced plasmas, regenerative braking or intestinal lactase are just not measurable on the same scale by a remote allocating body.

It would, however, make sense to have a constant flow of cash into each third-level specialist department, and to encourage co-operative research strategies that were more or less automatic. Thus, if JG Lacy, of the UCD electrical engineering department, who was one of the 1971 beneficiaries (remember the UCD electric car, commented on here?)(18), were to relate his project to the needs of public transport to the extent that CIE were prepared to put up some money, the NSC ought to be prepared to supplement it...

There is no mechanism in the NSC grant system for ensuring that the science ever becomes technology, although 'application' is supposed to be the keyword for success. A paper is written, academic promotion ensues, and the application potential, if any, goes to the Japanese.

Finally, the NSC comment on the IIRS plan: frankly I don't see the need for this document. The IIRS spent a long time producing a plan, then the NSC spends a long time studying it. Now in January 1973 we have a Brown Book of recommendations saying yes, fine, go ahead with your plan dated 1971-76!

In the light of this, I can only see the NSC as a bureaucratic brake on decisions, and an increasing frustration to those at the working level who know what they need to do the job that they are supposed to be doing and are already being paid for.

More autonomy is needed, more entrepreneurshup. An autonomous body ought tobe allowed totake some risks, instead of having every item of expenditure and every allocation problem analysed, with endless reposts by consultants, native and foreign. If I'm dealing with, say, the Techno-economics Division of the IIRS, I like to feel that I know whom I am dealing with, and not to have to wait for 'sanction' from some faceless body behind it.

Feb 7 1973

Professor O h-Eocha is apparently still optimistic about the proposed reconstitution of the National Science Council into a statutary body with teeth, despite the strong departmental interests which run counter to it. These proposals have been widely discussed; both the ASTMS (which is the Union organising both IIRS and AFT staffs) and the ITGWU (which organises the Foras Forbartha staff) have had special meetings on the question. The ASTMS is preparing a submission to the Minister for Finance.

There is strong and increasing opposition to a centralised bureaucratic approach to the financing of science. If structures could be seen which showed evidence of a democratic feed-back loop, people might be reassured. What is needed is a decentralised system, with decision-centres having real autonomy within the day-to-day contact range of the working scientist. Such centres could be associated in a loose federation having long-term planning responsibility and control over the rules governing the free flow of finance. The existing Research Institutes themselves are over-centralised.

If constitutional changes are to be made such as to inspire the working scientist with confidence and interest, he/she will need to be in on the discussions and not presented with a 'fait accompli'. It would be ironic if what saves us from bureaucratic centralisation is divisions within the bureaucracy itself, rather than democratic pressure, yet so far this appears to be the tendency.

March 21 1973

A working group of the Kane-Bernal Society(19) has come up with an alternative approach to the funding of research and development, and to science policy generally, which neatly gets around the 'central/sectoral' dilemma on which the 'science policy' pundits are currently impaled.

The proposed solution is that all decisions on allocating resources should be made at the working level, but subject to a set of subsidy rates which are the subject of a central decision. In another context: a farmer does not have to leave the decision to build a new barn to a central body, he makes the decision himself, in the knowledge that he will automatically get a subsidy.

To translate this principle into terms such as to be usable for science and technology involves distinguishing between industry, the Applied Research Institutes (ARI) and higher education.

Any sector of economic activity can be associated with a specific ARI and with certain specified fields of scientific knowledge. R&D related to this sector, according to the Kane-Bernal discussion paper, would be financed as follows:

1. A levy on some measure of economic activity would go to the ARI; anyone opting out of this levy (which they would have the right to do) would lose the right to representation on the ARI governing body, and would have to pay the full commercial rate if they need R and D work done.

2. Research contracts would be made between the ARI and the members of the associated group of firms, at favourable rates, the levy being taken as a retainer; the results would be the property of the sponsoring firms.

3. A percentage of ARI revenue would be set aside for the sponsorship by the ARI of applied-scientific work in the higher education system.

4. A further percentage would be allocated for the encouragement of basic research in key disciplines.

5. At each point in this chain, the central government would provide a subsidy; this could however be variable from sector to sector, would be reviewed every 3-5 years and would constitute the only central policy decision. Thus a particular sector would be characterised by four numbers, such as 200,100,10,5, meaning the respective percentages supplementation under the above four heads. Thus any increase in sponsored research activity would automatically increase the flow of funding into the underlying basic research; there would no longer be a conflict of interest between the 'pure' people and the 'applied' people for shares of a limited 'cake'.

6. Third-level education people enter the scheme by means of a similar 'working-level decision' procedure. Each would have, as of right, his/her 'tool-money' grant related to salary(20). The absolute level of this would be related tothe basic research fund accumulated over all sectors.....There could for example be a 50% rate of subsidy for inter-departmental group projects involving two to five people, 100% subsidy for projects involving over 2 departments (enabling a project management overhead to be supported), 150% if institutional boundaries are crossed etc. The rates struck can be related to the size of the current budget.

The idea of having committees to examine project feasibility is a monumental waste of time. Peoples' reputations will stand or fall by the results; if they phoney things up to get money, it will rebound to their academic discredit.

I would like to ask publicly those candidate senators who have interests inscience and technology...if they would care to contribute 200 words to the question of resource allocation, and indicate their attitude to the transfer of the decisions to the working level along the lines indicated....

April 4 1973

The Science Policy Research Centre in UCD, directed by Professor Patrick Lynch, has produced a report(21) to the National Science Council which raises a number of important points...

There are three main sections: (1) Government policy in general: taxation, patents, monopolistic practices etc (2) Industrial structure at present, and inthe future, and its potential for exploiting science and technology as a resource (3) The educational system and the environment for research and development.

The 'negative tax' proposed in the first section (this is the meaning of tax exemption greater than 100%) on R&D costs in industry is rather different from the system of levies and subsidies I proposed a fortnight ago. The difference is in the amount of central government revenue, raised from general taxation, allocated for R&D.

Under the system proposed in the Report, these resources would enter into political competition with health and education. I would prefer to see them removed from this arena and drawn from the specific sectors of industry that the R and D benefits. I don't believe in feather-bedding; industry should pay. If a firm gets R and D for nothing, then it is unlikely to pay attention to what the R and D people discover, a sure recipe for frustration.

The writers of the Report also seem to be under the impression that the encouragement of mergers and monopolies in Irish industry will give rise to firms of a scale large enough to go in for R&D.. This, I suggest, is by no means certain. One does not necessarily need scale in order to be clever. One can have a large organisation that is wealthy enough to survive bad decisions without R and D. I would prefer to see technology ...disseminated...rather than concentrated into a few large monopolies vulnerable to take-over, followed by the transfer of their R&D abroad.

The second section gives some comparative figures for the 'science-intensity' of our industry. We rank at the bottom of the league....

It is concluded that ..Irish manufacturing industry is not likely to provide a suitable environment for the effective uptake of R&D, and that future developments, if present trends continue, should be seen in terms of the attraction by the IDA of science-intensive industries. The authors are clearly unhappy about this; they propose the development of more specialised industries and services, with high value-added content, organically connected with Irish resources. They return to the idea of mergers of Irish firms, but manage to avoid any reference to the need for the expansion of the productive State sector, and the encouragement of enterprise derived from applied scientific research in the State institutes.

In the course of this section, the authors manage to get a side-swipe at the AFT budget, which is high relative to its sector, by international comparison. This, I feel, is a matter for national self-congratulation, not worry. We have avoided the gadarene rush into 'glamorous' science, and invested in the science basic to food production, which is where we have a natural advantage. This research investment, provided it is appropriately linked into development, can spread vertically into food technology.

There is in this report an economist's preoccupation with figures printed on statistical tables, to the extent that one wonders if the authors know what is going on in technology. There is no evidence of awareness of the... importance of the developing mining sector, marine resources, offshore oil possibilities; we need direct State involvement in these areas, even at the level of knowing the value of what we are selling off (to put it at a cynical minimum).

I have before criticised the academic economists for indulging in a fashionable discovery of science among the 'residuals' without really understanding the nature of the beast. This report has confirmed my opinion. Science policy must come from conscious application by scientists of their minds to the problems of society; what passes for science policy developed without scientists is doomed to sterility.

What saves the report is the third section on education. It exposes, again, the poor resources and qualifications of the average teacher of science, supplementing the researches of Seamus O Buachalla and others in the TCD Education Department, of which, however, it shows no sign of awareness on the part of the authors. It relates this, correctly, to the privately-owned sector of the second-level education system and its anachronistic management-structure; it stresses the need for the Regional Colleges to provide a strong grounding in basic sciences so as to fill the 'technician gap' with people having the necessary versatility and adaptability.... It misses however the danger inherent in the present lack of autonomy of the Colleges, and the imposition on the teaching staff of hours and conditions related to second-level standards. How can College staff produce people adapted to the needs of industry, if they have no time to go out and make the industrial contacts?

Finally, the report makes a reasoned plea for the removal of the obstacles(22) to consultancy by University staff, pointing out, correctly, that such work in general enhances the relevance of academic work, rather than competing with it.

I think if the Science Policy Research Unit in UCD were to convert itself into an Industrial Liaison Office, and try to build up systematically some real links between the undoubted talent in the UCD Departments and the outside world, including the Applied Research Institutes, industry and government, dealing with real problems, it would soon find where the obstacles were. There is little insight to be gained from relying on macro-economic techniques alone.

The NSC grant to the Universities on which the UCD Science Policy Unit was founded, was in the case of TCD and UCG devoted instead to the foundation if Industrial Liaison Offices. It is, perhaps, not too late for UCD to start thinking in these terms.

July 4 1973

..How does a young scientist, wishing to get out of academic work and get into industry, go about it? He/she will rarely find a specialist job; however there are many jobs for which a specialist training would be an asset.

There is a surplus of specialist scientists and a deficiency of engineers, technologists and quantitatively competent managers. The National Science Council would do a service if it were to collect appropriate job-opportunities together and make them available available in concentrated form to aspirant technologists wishing to get out of the ivory tower, and willing to chance their arm in a practical specialist discipline where their scientific specialist training has relevance: physicist to engineer, botanist to agriculturalist for example.

The TCD Graduate School of Engineering now provides an MSc course open to non-engineering graduates. This type of transition-process will need to increase, if the practical jobs are not to be filled increasingly by non-Irish. The process of recruitment for the NIHE in Limerick has exposed this problem rather sharply; the same problem holds for the IIRS.

Also, because advertisements tend to appear in particular learned journals, and at odd times, not everyone suitable of Irish origin sees them. Posts therefore tend to get filled by a type of drop-out Englishman or American, who regards Ireland as a sort of retirement, a way out of the rat-race, more often than need be the case, while the Irish abroad are forced to abandon their nationality in order to pursue their scientific interests. Only those , such as the writer, who have been through this uprooting process can understand the force of the dilemma which occurs at each job-change: will this increase the probability of return or not? It is all to easy to over-specialise and price oneself out of the Irish market.

This, ofcourse, is the basis of the 'tourist trade' and the so-called 'ethnic market' that keeps Aer Lingus going. It is also the basis of political conservatism at home. There are vested interests in its retention.

Sept 5 1973

The NSC has been making various efforts ....to establish a bridge between university scientists and engineers on the one hand, and industry on the other. Fruits of the scheme to date have been the Industrial Liaison Officers in TCD and UCG and the Science Policy Research Unit in UCD. The scheme is now to be expanded to include sponsorship of projects jointly by the NSC and the industrial firms where they originate....

A line is drawn between 'research' and 'non-research' activities, the former being funded as before under the University Grants Scheme.

The type of projects envisaged include developmental and pilot- plant work, technical surveys, personnel exchanges and preparation of educational aids.....

The new scheme goes a step towards industry, but it is clear that those who formulated it are thinking administratively rather than creatively. They are imposing artificial conditions, and overlooking the problems.

By specifying 'non-research' they face the academics with the question 'do we allow this work to be registered for PhDs?'

By imposing a sanctioning procedure with time-lag they are putting obstacles in the way of the mamager who likes to make a quick decision whether or not the project is worth X pounds; the risk is faced that it may cost 2X pounds or more if the NSC in its wisdom refuses support. Does he still go ahead on College ground when perhaps for the same price it could be initiated in the firm's own laboratory? Does he therefore make the support conditional on NSC support? If so, what does our aspirant academic entrepreneur tell the bright young graduate who would be involved in the project? Should he/she stay on in expectation, or take up that offer from Loughborough?

I have recently witnessed a case presenting these dilemmas; the outcome was one frustrated academic, one bright brain lost to the country (at least in the short run) and one small firm with one less shot in its locker in the battle for survival (it has since folded)(23).

This being a firm with a good R&D tradition (rare enough among small firms), does the argument not hold a fortiori for firms without any such tradition?

I remain adamantly a proponent of the abolition of the 'project- vetting' procedure and the development of a system of automatic subsidies, with a minimum of basic monitoring, structured to encourage particular sectors to 'bridge-build', with the sectors carrying variable subsidy- rates determined by policy. But let the basic decision be between the customer and the contractor, without third party.

The ideal bridge-building project should be (a) long enough to enable the student to get a postgraduate degree out of it, (b) close enough to the firms needs to make the student immediately employable on project completion, taking it in with him as a going concern (c)such as to involve the academic supervisor with the firm in a consultancy capacity, to the extent that the firm is shielded from the possible negative effect of 'false starts' by the student, due to inexperience (d) costed on a total rather than a marginal basis.

The last point is crucial, because if the College is to make available supervisory time in a consultancy capacity, it will need to increase the staff-student ratio. At this point the intervention of the NSC with subsidy becomes essential: if the project iscosted at total cost, the firm might as well do the job under its own control. The role of the subsidy is to compensate the firm for the degree of loss of control, and to make it look to the firm like a marginal-cost operation, while at the same time allowing the College to devote an adequate share of its overheads (space, administrative time, supervisory time) to the fulfilment of the project up to professional standards.

Also, of course, the patent rights, if any, should be shared between the firm and the inventor on an equitable basis.

I wish the new NSC scheme well, even if its role is only as an educator of academics in the ways of the world. In the long run, perhaps enough political pressure can be built up to get the above snags eradicated.

March 27 1974

I listened to Conor O'Toole, who heads the IIRS Physics Dept, and is now on secondment to the NSC for the purpose of looking after our scientific interests in Brussels....This involves him in weekly trips and consumes a high proportion of the time of one of our few, and not readily dispensible, applied physicists of standing. There will need to be some gains to balance this investment of effort. Read what follows and make up your own mind.

There are four EEC Departments with responsibilities for science and technology: Industrial and Technical Affairs; Research, Science and Education; Scientific Information; Energy. The last-named is also responsible for 'Euratom'.

The Commissioner for Research, Science and Education is Professor Ralph Dahrendorf(24)....

Consider Euratom, as an example of EEC organisation in science and technology. It is a single organisation with four centres, at Ispra (in Norhtern Italy, employing 1800), Geel (in Belgium, employing 250), Karlsruhe (in Germany, employing 300) and Petten (in the Netherlands, employing 300). The Geel centre is on the same campus as the Belgian national centre at Mol....in each case the joint centre is linked to a national centre, in the interests of rationalisation.. at one stage it seemed that the nationalgovernments had the idea that they could get rid of their nuclear research expenditure on to the international body....

The result is a rather un-co-ordinated structure, which for four years (69-72) was rather dubiously on annual budget. Now with the UK accession they have adopted a four-year budget, with a view to enticing the British, who by and large have a reasonable record of competence in nuclear power development, into the system.

In the writer's opinion, the objectives of Euratom are dubious. I won't go into the arguments now, but S L Fawcett, President of the Battelle Memorial Institute, in his 1970 Review, criticised the nuclear engineers for their failure to break out of the thermodynamic straitjacket. Fission energy begins its life as electricity (in the form of rapidly-moving charged particles) and then gets degraded to heat. The Battelle effort is going in the direction of laser-generated plasmas, by-passing fission and going straight to fusion, which is relatively speaking a 'clean' process. The whole nuclear fission effort is not only bad thermodynamics but highly pollutant.

However, given that Euratom exists, one should note that it is working on handling and disposing of nuclear wastes, plutonium and other trans-unanic elements (the former has of course a military component), materials sciences (mainly from the angle of how materials survive high-intensity bombardment by nuclear particles), reactor safety etc. There are also 'applied data-processing' (what is 'pure' data-processing?) and information analysis centres. There is a high-flux reactor at Petten, for materials testing.

There is a developing interest in fusion physics, with budget rising to 17MUA in or about 1978; this level is rather less than that of the British.

The size of the spin-off projects is quite small: say 50,000 UA, comparable to what our own NSC is handing out for some individual projects in Ireland. Some Irish bodies have already pulled in 'Euro- contracts': the Medico-Social Research Board, and the TCD Dept of Genetics, for example. Professor Winder, in TCD, is looking at the recovery of living cells after radiation damage.

Now consider the financial quantitied involved. The three-year budget is 290UA, or about 90UA per annum. The ratio appropriate to the Republic is, say, .6%, which is about £200,000. This is what we pay out. From this we get back £120,000 worth of central services (if we organise ourselves to absorb them) and £80,000 pounds in research contracts (if we organise ourselves to go out and get them).

The channels whereby our scientists might become aware of the specifics of this 'market' are virtually non-existent. This small meeting, addressed by Conor O'Toole and attended by about 20 people, was the first evidence I have seen for the existence of any such channels.

..It will not be possible to get value for the national investment in the EEC either in sub-contracts or in general services on the basis of an individualistic approach. Substantial groups of Irish scientists , organised and co-ordinated across the boundaries of the applied research institutes, universities and colleges of technology, need to come into existence and to support a force of 'salesmen' (if you like), or people professionally responsible for linking the organised research effort into the problem areas on a continuous basis. We need scientific attaches at our embassies; experience people who know how to recognise problems and resources, scientific entrepreneurs.

I doubt if the efforts of the scientific attaches would need to be directed much towards the 'euro-bodies'. The national scientific establishments are where the action is most likely to interest us. The main message from the above is that 'Euro-expenditure' on science and technology is small change compared to the national expenditures: compare the £200,000 with our national R&D budget of £14M.

I personally a therefore resisting spending time on 'Euro-science'. The old-established international network has served us well, and will no doubt continue to do so(24).

May 1 1974

..I look forward to knowing more about Professor Dahrendorf's 'bold plans...' When I get sight of these I will be better able to judge whether Conor O'Toole's time in Brussels has been well spent or not.

In the meantime, I suggest that the NSC turn its mind to ensuring that on the various 'expert committees' concerned with the drafting of regulations our national interests are taken care of by people who really know the technology? This means. in effect, establishing proper lines of communuication between Irish scientists and technologists and the civil service concernedwith specialist matters. It is in this area, where by allowing some irrelevant technical standard to be adopted unopposed, or by failing to insist on the imposition of a relevant standard, that we could lose or gain exports worth tens of millions. Compare this with the relatively trivial sums to which I referred in the field of R&D expenditure.

The prime use of Irish expertise is to defend the national interest..

May 8 1974

I am indebted to Dr Alexander Schaub, of Professor Dahrendorf's staff in the EEC Commission, for a reprint of a lecture given by the latter at the Fawley Foundation, University of Southampton, on November 8 1973. This was entitled 'Towards a European Science Policy' and presumably constitutes a summary of of EEC forward thinking in this field. I will try to pick out the main points ..by some quotations.

'..In an ideal world the scholar thrives on the absence of policies directed at his own activities..'

'..large areas of science..have only recently been discovered by the European Community..' and are still handled with a case-by-case approach..

'..a fully-fledged Council of Ministers has to approve a project requiring ten people and $100,000 per year..'

'Science policy had its day, short as it was, but it is no longer held in any esteem..'

Only in February 1973 'under considerable pressure' did they decide on a quadriennial budget for the Joint Research Centre with its four establishments at Ispra, Karlsruhe, Geel and Petten.

'..European science policy is concerned with a mere 2% of all public expenditures on science in Europe..' '..energy, agriculture, regionaland social affairs, high-technology industry and environment are...top priority..'. There is '..fear about the re-allocation of funds...money going to the European Community which seemed hitherto in easier reach by being in national budgets..'

(The writer subscribes to this fear; this was one of the central points of his first article on the EEC (date); he is not reassured by Professor Dahrendorf's paper.)

'..we have reached the limits of effective action on a national level...the scientific community should learn not to be more narrow- hearted than other parts of our population..'

As long as 'Euro-science' remains at the 2% level we can afford to be 'broad-hearted', but if it shows any sign of increase then he who can maintain the best lobby at Brussels will get the biggest research grant, and the Lord help Europe's off-shore islands...

Nowhere in the paper is there any quantification of the 'application ratio' (ie the ratio of effort into basic vs applied science); Professor Dahrendorf seems to be unaware that this is one of the key problems in 'science policy'. Having dismissed the 'control of scholarship' angle at the start, correctly, he then fails to face up to the question 'how many scholars do we need, compared to applied-scientists and technologists? (The use of the concept 'scholar' in the context of the work of the basic-research scientist some would find quaint).

The debate, no doubt, will continue.

June 26 1974 ..Professor O-hEocha has recently reviewed the work of the National Science Council during his period of office (this terminates shortly; the NSC is due to be replaced by a statutary body, with extended functions)(25).

With some humility Professor O h-Eocha outlined the NSC history of ad-hoc judgments whereby they searched for that elusive goal 'those aspects of scientific research which foster economic progress..'. He candidly admitted that the NSC was aware of its lack of contact with the scientific community. He outlined the history of the 'near miss' whereby the European molecular biology centre had nearly been 'bagged' for Ireland. Finally, Strasbourg had been chosen, because Ireland was 'too inaccessible'.

Policy-making was crippled by lackof statistics by discipline. Data from the 1971 Census was not yet available. (The reports of the University Appointments Officers give a very incomplete view of the role of scientist and technologists in industry...only for the 1973 crop of graduates did the Appointments Officers get together for the first time to produce integrated statistics. This still leaves the Colleges of Technology out in the cold.)

Professor O h-Eocha added up the sums since 1968 and got £650,000 for 86 projects. No attempt was made to establish criteria of success, or to evaluate spin-off into economic life. He referred to work going on under Professor Patrick Lynch in the UCD Science Policy Research Unit; what I know of this suggests that it consists of economists looking through darkened glass into a black box, without the necessary insights derived from actual work in technology, and management in industries where changes in technology are key determinants. I am not decrying the efforts of the economists to come to grips with the significance of technology; I am suggesting that they need a stronger interaction with creative technologists.

He instanced also the Industrial Liaison Officer scheme and the University-industry co-operation scheme as ..positive actions... I have criticised the latter on the grounds that the negotiations between the parties are rendered more difficult by the need for one party to refer to a third party for sanction, with a time-lag (see above). This, of course, is not the fault of the NSC; it is a consequence of the fact that it is a non-statutary body which can only 'recommend' to the Department of Finance. Possibly when the new Board is established it will choose to operate some form of supplementation of all industrial research contracts money obtained by academics according to defined rules.

Professor O h-Eocha announced also an Institute-University scheme, whereby money for basic-applied projects of interest to the Institutes would be allocated by the NSC on the recommendation of the Institutes for work in the Universities. This scheme has positive potential; he did not however give details(26).

He also announced the establishment of a set of panels to advise on various priority areas: environmental pollution, applied instrumentation (What is pure instrumentation? Why the adjective?), solid state, energy, minerals ..'thinking vertically, from prospecting right down to smelting..', marine resources.

I seem to remember in the early days of NSC a rather similar set of priority areas being named. The step from naming to empanelling could perhaps have been made with less delay.

There is also talk of an international marine centre in the West, and of changing IDA attitudes to R and D in foreign-based firms.

There is also a new scheme for expatriate Irish graduates to take temporary jobs in the NSC, doing techno-economic analysis while they invent suitable jobs for themselves, or find suitable ecological niches for themselves in industry..

This stock-taking event was poorly attended and received little or no publicity. It contrasted with the heady early days of 'science policy' enthusiasm, when the concept of 'centres of excellence' was first floated before a large audience in the main hall of the RDS.

The whole tone of Professor O h-Eocha's speech suggested doubt, hesitancy, grasping at straws, uneasy consciousness of the lack of basic competence of the State mechanism for dealing with science and technology.

August 8 1974

The report of the Irish University Careers and Appointments Services, published inJune of this year, quantifies the fates of the graduates of TCD, UCD, UCC, and UCC who took their degrees in 1973.

It is a great handicap for those who wish to analyse the question of graduate jobs in science and technology that there is no machinery for getting all the data in the one place. As far as the Universities are concerned, the Colleges of Technology might as well not exist. There is no administrative support within the VEC system analogous to the University Appointments Officers.

The picture for scientists may be summarised as follows:

                                     1972     1973
            Total Respondants         356      352
              Ireland                  78       85
              abroad                   11       20
              Ireland                  85       92
              abroad                   19       12
            Teacher Training          132      120

This looks like a stable situation; the numbers are too small to suggest any valid trend.The interesting figure is hidden; how many of those who go on for higher degrees take jobs in Ireland? In some ares where records are kept (eg among UCD chemists) the indications are that the proportion is high, but is this universal?

A questionnaire to higher-degree people would be a useful supplement to this enquiry.

We need also the data from the Colleges of Technology. It makes no sense to consider the Universities in isolation.

Of the 85 who gained employment in 1973.... 27 went into industry and 19 went into teaching, presumably without teaching diploma. The corresponding 1972 figures were 18 and 32 respectively. Thus there seems to be a small but increasing demand for raw science graduates....

Comparable figures for engineers are as follows:

                                     1972     1973
            Total respondants         253      245
              Ireland                 144      136
              abroad                   44       68
              Ireland                  38       30
              abroad                   10        4
            Teacher Training            2        1

Clearly the engineers are better adapted to getting jobs immediately, but in this case ther appears to be a trend into emigration and away from jobs in Ireland...

By and large the impression is confirmed that the university graduate scientist in industry in Ireland is a rare bird....

August 28 1974

I am indebted to Derek Scholefield for his letter of August 15 in which he expands on the problems of graduate employment encountered by the University Appointments Officers. He seems to be saying that things are not as bad as I suggest. If so, he has a point insofar as the number I quoted of 27 graduates out of 352 going into industry can be pumped up to 85 if you include 'all employments'. This, however, is still small compared to the total. The rest must be labelled, for the moment, 'destination unknown', as they go mainly for research for higher degrees and for teacher training. It is the ultimate fate of the former that I suggest merits investigation. The College statistical services are apparently not yet in a position to do this....

I am suggesting that they constitute a 'hidden pool' of unemployment, becoming over-specialised and locally unemployable into the bargain. If they are outstanding they end up in academic positions, mostly abroad; if not they run the risk of ending up as misfits.

The National Science Council, to give it credit, has contributed to the analysis, not by means of the 'manpower sub-committee' of which the collapse was noted by Derek Scholefield in his letter, but by ensuring that a question on scientific and technological qualifications was included in the 1971 Census....

I must apologise for seeming to suggest that the universities are in some way to blame for the failure of College of Technology statistics to appear on a comparable basis....the fault lies with the Department of Education. It looks almost as if the 'binary system' (another of our heritages from the period of British rule about which we should think critically) is to be regarded as such a 'sacred cow' that every difficulty must be placed in the way of those who wish to gather comparable statistics, lest an effective case be made to challenge it. However, I doubt it this is by design, it is administrative muddle rather than malice.

Would it be politically so very difficult to get all third-level statistics into one annual report?....

October 2 1974

At the opening of the Engineers 'Crossroads' conference on September 19 the Minister for Industry and Commerce Mr Justin Keating announced the decision to set up a new statutary National Board for Science and Technology, to replace the present National Science Council.

The new Board will operate under a Cabinet Committee for Science and Technology; there will be a Science Budget and a special fund for research and development. The Cabinet Committee will consist of the Ministers for Finance, Agriculture and Fisheries, Posts and Telegraphs, Trnasport and Power and Industry and Commerce; it will meet under the chairmanship of the Minister for Education. Other Ministries may be added later.

The Ministers listed rank as the prime State consumers of technological expertise.

The Science Budget will not be submitted to a separate vote in the Dail, but will exist as a picture of national effort in science and technology, enabling the budget debate, where it touches on such matters, to be conducted in the light of some quantitative estimates.

The 'special fund' will be directed towards promoting aspects of national resource development, as well as encouraging collaboration between productive bodies and those providing the scientific base. Irish participation in international scientific programmes is also to be encouraged by its means.....

The Minister called upon the various professional and representative organisations of scientists and technologists to contribute ideas and suggestions to the new Board.

It is premature to welcome the new Board, as we have not yet seen it(25). It has potential for doing good....I discount any possible objections from the agriculturalists; they are on the road to industrialisation anyway and there is no reason why they should be subject to special structures under a different Department. The Department of Agriculture is in any case on the Cabinet Committee.

The real test will be whether the new Board has any effect on the links between the thrid-level education system and the various sectoral application areas..

May 13 1975

The visit of Professor Ralph Dahrendorf to Dublin on the occasion of his election to honorary membership of the Royal Irish Academy passed almost unnoticed by the media.

Professor Dahrendorf was EEC Commissioner for Research, Science and Education from 1970 to 1974. He is at present Director of the London School of Economics.

In a philosophical discourse which he gave to the Academy on the occasion...he made his main theme the 'information explosion': people who made decisions were dispairing of their ability to take note of the available knowledge, and were returning to 'gut reaction'. Rigid 'cost-benefit analysis' in science was self-defeating; science flourishes in unmapped areas. Science policy in Europe, insofar as it existed, tended to put defence first and environment last. These priorities remained in force, despite their unanimous rejection by the scientific community.

Institutionalisation of science is a brake on progress; the latter tends to take place at the interstices. The growing hostility towards universities and scientists Professor Dahrendorf attributed to the growth of student ultra-leftism, which found a target in the moral ambiguity of science. He suggested that the world was over-researched, and that there was a need for a return to the Renaissance and an undoing of specialisation.

Professor Dahrendorf listed three desirable development areas:

1. to organise 'responsible autonomy' allowing intrinsic, conscious development of science without outside influence(28).

2. somehow to improve and rationalise the flow of scientific information.

3. to develop some kind of science policy council, which would produce an annual budgeted plan for political discussion.

Thus far Professor Dahrendorf. My own reaction is ..to note his concern over the question of priorities in R&D and his unease regarding the ability of scientific opinion alone to reverse them. In other words, it is no use having an enlightened elite to advise the Prince; it is also necessary to have the influence of an informed mass public opinion. I therefore particularly welcome the recognition of the need to pull science into the political arena; this in Ireland is (theoretically at least) provided for in the proposed structure of the new National Board for Science and Technology, reporting to the Cabinet Committee. How this will work in the peculiar conditions of irish democract remains to be seen. At least it will constitute an incentive for active scientific workers in Ireland to help devlop an informed public opinion.

May 20 1975

I have on various occasions referred to the problem of under-utilisation of our scientifically-trained graduate manpower, and have been able to quantify the problem in a paper to the Statistical and Social Enquiry Society in January of this year(29).

It is generally recognised that, as a result of over-production relative to job-opportunities for young graduates, there exists a stock of scientific and technological expertise abroad. Those involved regard themselves as 'gaining experience' and are usually committed to seeking opportunities to return.

With this in mind, personnel departments place advertisements in the English papers. This, however, has the effect of generating a flood of English applications for jobs in Ireland, with which the aspirant repatriates have to compete.

The field of choice may be widened, but I suggest that the motivation of the successful applicant becomes diluted. Most young English scientists would tend to regard a job in Ireland as a stepping-stone in a European- scale promotional ratrace, while the motivation of the returning emigrant is to find his or herself a means of support in Ireland near friends and relations.

A side-effect of this advertising policy affects adversely those few earlier emigrants (such as the writer) who managed to return, with an exhausting swim against the tide, carving out precarious niches in a largely hostile and conservative environment dominated by those few of their contemporaries who had become time-servers in the Establishment.

These hardy pioneers are now over the age-limits which are applied, quite callously, by the brash young men of the personnel departments. I know one person, highly qualified, and with relevant experience in the social sciences, who has been unemployed for over a year, and whose pay-related benefits have come to an end. Any job this person applies for is (a)flooded with young applicants from England (b)considered by the employer as 'not to be worthy of' someone as 'good' as this unfortunate unemployed applicant!

There is a solution to this problem which employers could adopt, namely, to restrict advertising to the Irish papers, and to make special arrangements to get on the emigrant grapevine...

June 17 1975

A study recently carried out by Chase Econometrics Associate Inc. has esteblished that under US conditions the injection of $1Bn into R and D via NASA would, by 1984, (a) add $22Bn to real GNP, (b) slow down the inflation-rate two percentage points below the base- line (c) reduce unemployment by 0.4 percentage points (d) increase appreciably the growth of the labour productivity index.

Such studies, based on econometric models, can be validated by a procedure of pretending to be in 1969 and 'predicting' 1974. They depend on specified assumptions, which can be quastioned and changed.

No comparable study exists for Ireland, though the expertise to do it certainly exists, scattered throughout the ESRI, the IIRS and the third-level education system.

Basically what is being estimated is the 'multiplier effect' for injection of State funds into the employment of high-grade labour, supplemented by the effects of that labour in improving the productivity and reducing the costs of various productive processes.

Positive effects arise in the latter direction more or less by accident. Investment by design into R and D in a relatively low-technology sector (eg wood and furntiure) would, inthe writer's opinion, give rise to a more spectacular effect, especially in proportion as the development of new products and processes gave rise to sub-contracting linkages within the Irish economy.

The importance of developing these cross-links cannot be over-emphasised; the role of things like the IIRS 'Ireland Products and Services' series... in this process is crucial.

October 7 1975

I attended on Sept 30 and October 1 a conference organised by the NSC to acquaint irish scientists and technologists with the way in which EEC policy is evolving. This was the first such event; there have been minor seminars before(30), which scratched the surface of our ignorance, but this is the first time that our weakness has been put on display systematically.

The conference can be counted a success if as a result we as a natiom are able to co-ordinate our efforts and pull in research contracts of value substantially greater than the State is obliged to contribute to the common R and D fund.

The norm is that for each pound we put in, we may get back (on average) 35p in access to joint research facilities, 42p in research funds expended on our home ground, and 3p in coal and steel research. The remainder is lost in administration.

In order to get back our 80p we need to organise rather intensively. Anyone considering submitting a proposal has to ensure that (a)it is relevant to the overall programme (b)it is of scientific value (c)it can be co-ordinated with the other projects in the programme (d)it has a prospect of success (e)it is of acceptable cost (f)it carries a guarantee of 50% local finance.

By submitting enough good projects in the fashionable fields we have some hope of getting our 42p back. If we want to take up the 35p, we will have to send people to work in the joint EEC centres, where they will have a chance to expose themselves to the atmosphere of world-class research for a period, mostly inthe field of nuclear energy (of both fission and fusion varieties).

The areas of research in order of current budgetary priority are: energy (106.3), public service (31.5), industry (15.1), environment (7.6), social (7.2) and agriculture (2.4); the numbers refer to millions of units of account, and the allocation is for 1975. Thus clearly the energy programme is the glamour area, thanks to the Arab-Israeli war.

Although the degree of organised lobbying for research or development contracts in Ireland is insignificant, there have beensome areas of success, which have occurred by dint of enterprising people taking advantage of chance contacts, or as a result of strong prior links with the European network.

These success stories were listed in the news-pages last week, and I do not intend to dwell upon them, except to point out that in the environmental sector we have pulled in about four times the 'norm', which is an encouraging indication that if we turn our minds to exporting R and D we can do so successfull.

Can we generalise this success? It depends on how we go about it. There are two approaches: the traditional one, in which you tell nobody, keep it dark, develop close personal links with influential people near the source, stab all possible rivals in the back and generally behave as a traditional entrepreneur in the capitalist jungle before society made any attempt to impose an ethic; the alternative one is to open up the lines of communication and develop co-operative team-work.

The writer has been associated with the latter philosophy for some 25 years of scientific working life, not, as some might think, primarily for ideological reasons (though these do contribute), but mainly for the practical reason that in 'big science' there is no other way. The one-man band is weak; the self-managed team is better if it can throw up an effective and accepted leadership. In major projects you need the skills of an experienced project manager. Such people rarely occur in an academic environment.

If we are to open up the lines of communication and enable the second approach to develop, we will need better structures than were on display at Belfield last week.

I do not have space to fill out the Byzantine intricacies of the EEC committees which are relevant to the development of science and technology policy.... all I can say now is that I have a recent case-history where a distinguished academic who was sitting on a prestige committee (advising the Council directly) had to act outside the official channels in order to ensure that at least some firms in Ireland were informed of an opportunity to bid for some high-technology sub-contracts. The official channels were not alive to the existence of a commercial opportunity.

I refer back to my article on August 19, in which I hinted at this problem, specifically in the food field. The very next day I had a phone-call from a Department official confirming my diagnosis; I know I am on solid ground.

The positive effect of last week's NSC conference is that every participant now has a 'who's who' of Byzantium: the responsible officers on the various working parties and committees in the specialist fields are named. It is now possible for lines of communication to be set up so as toensure that firms and researchers are appropriately informed of opportunities.

Anyone in the State structure attempting to defend a sector he or she does not know will be unlikely to stick the pace: the State will, hopefully, get the message and put in replacements who do have active knowledge and contacts with Irish science and technology relevant to the sector. The best way to keep in touch is not via academic establishments, but via the voluntary associations, where people get together with a degree of enthusiasm to talk about their work.

In other words, we will draw benefit from the European contacts in proportion as the people potentially concerned withthem are in tune with the 'grapevine'. There are some sectors where this is the case;we need to generalise this experience.....

January 6 1976

I have received a statistical compendium of EEC research and development statistics, with the label 'Eurostat'. The label offends my sense of linguistic propriety, as firstly the EEC is not Europe (being only part of that continent) and secondly, in scientific terminology, the suffix '-stat' implies a device for keeping something constant, as in 'chemostat' or 'thermostat'.

Having registered my protest, let me go on to remark on the bad news contained therein, namely that the Irish Republic is firmly at the bottom of of the league as regards R&D expenditure per head of the population, with index 24.7 in 1973 and 24.6 in 1974, compared with 142.3 and 142.0 for the German Federal Republic. The EEC average is defined as 100.

The position exists despite the best efforts of the NSC over the years. It is likely to worsen, unless the State is propared display vision and come up with extreme measures for for promoting the linkages between the various national problem-areas and those concerned with, or potentially concerned with, researching methods of solution...

The mechanism of its worsening is, in the writer's opinion, dominated by the fact that many key people are sterilised by pressure of Brussels committee-work, and prevented from turning their minds to what is needed at home.

People try at Brussels tofight for a share of the R and D cake, as administered centrally. They are in a weak position, as they lack the standing of salesmen backed by a productive force that can deliver, except in the cases of a small number of areas where research units in Ireland have established international standing.

This problem will be onthe agenda of the incoming National Board for Science and Technology. It will need to hold out agressively for at least a quadrupling of the budget, if R&D in Ireland is not to subside irrevocably into the ground.

April 27 1976

I had the pleasure of meeting on March 27 Dr Tom Jones, who is a 'special deputy for international affairs' on behalf of the National Science Foundation (NSF) in Washington DC. He was interacting with a small group of UCD staff at a seminar in the Science Policy Research Unit in the Economics Department. Professor Patrick Lynch presided.

..No formal paper was read, but Dr Jones outlined his own career, speaking off the cuff, and then answered questions.

The NSF has a system of secondment from universities; this prevents the bureaucracy becoming 'them' to the universities 'us'. This was his way in, from a radiation chemistry career in the University of Wisconsin. Previously he had worked on the Manhattan Project....with Fermi and Seaborg. This... places him among the most eminent of the pioneers of nuclear weapons development, during the period prior to Hiroshima when it was necessary to pre-empt the Nazis, who had equal access to the scientific discoveries on which it was based.

(Perhaps a secondment procedure between our universities and colleges of technology and the National Science Council would make for more mutual comprehension?)

Dr Jones stayed on with the NSF from 1957; he headed the US Antarctic Programme; this developed towards the environmental sciences, the atmosphere, oceanography. He was primarily responsible for the Glomar Challenger programme(31) which elucidated definitively the dynamics of the Earth's crustal movements (continental drift etc). His largest annual budget was $275M.

He is now in policy development and has no budget. He is engaged in devising a gambling system; this describes well the problems of investment in basic research.

Dr Jones believes in moving the person, rather than the hardware or the idea, from basic research to applied research and on to development. He believes that the role of the large specialist centre is to be a place where a university scientist can go for a sabbatical year. An example in the US of such is the Atmospheric Science centre at Boulder, Colorado, which is shared by all US universities with a budget of $24M.

(In Ireland, our way into this league is via the European international centres, many of which pre-date the EEC. The contacts tend to go via the Academy and the Institute of Advanced Studies; between these bodies and the working university scientists, however, there is minimal communication.)

Dr Jones had some advice for us: do an inventory of university research, find the areas where it is already competitive on the international network, and put the money in there.

It is necessary to plug the gap between the basic graduate research schools and industry by means of special purpose systems devised for the purpose; we should examine the Canadian pattern. (This signal also came out of the recent IUPAP Physics in Industry Conference.) We should not attempt to convert university research labs into development labs, but instead cultivate the interfaces and encourage mobility of people across them.

Economists should be cultivated by scientists because they are more acceptable as advisers to politicians. (Remember that we are in the UCD Economics Department at Belfield: Professor Lynch's enterprise has begun to pay off. The Dean of the Science Faculty, Professor Tom Nevin, was there.)

Finally Dr Jones invoked the spirit of the late JD Bernal FRS (the Tipperary-born physicist whose Marxist classic 'The Social Function of Science', published in 1938, it is at last becoming fashionable to admit having read) and stressed the need to ask the right questions, to which principle Bernal attributed his success as an adviser to the British Government in wartime, despitte his political position.

June 6 1976

The annual Kane Lecture, organised by the RDS, was delivered on May 19 at UCD (Belfield) by Martin J Cranley, Director General of the IIRS.

This constitutes a useful and important summary of the Irish natural resources position, viewed from the angle those who wish to maintain native control over their exploitation. What follows is a summary of the highlights.

Sir Robert Kane(32) was born in 1809, published his first scientific paper in 1828 and in 1829 discovered a mineral, named Kaneite after him, manganese arsenide. He published 'The Elements of Practical Pharmacy' in 1831 and was elected to membership of the RIA at the age of 22. He went to TCD but was so busy doing real science that he only got a pass BA. In 1833 he discovered the ethyl radical and published his findings, anticipating Liebig by a year. In 1834 he became RDS Lecturer in Natural Philosophy; in this capacity he was commissioned to to produce an account of the state of manufacturing industry in Ireland and to ascertain the most desirable methods of 'applying natural forces to the development of mechanic power'. This led eventually in 1844 to the publication of his classic 'Industrial Resources of Ireland'. In the meantime he had published in 1842 'The Elements of Chemistry' which became an international success and a standard textbook in the US.

He was responsible for the establishment of higher education in technology in Ireland, becoming Dean in 1865 of the RoyalCollege of Science. He became president of the RIA in 1877 and died in 1890.

The national economic optimism which pervades the 440 pages of the 'Industrial Rosources of Ireland' was however killed by the potato-crop failure of 1845-7 and the consequent mass-emigration which took away, with the people, the potential home market for Irish manufactures.

We are now again at the beginning of a population-explosion, with implied buoyant home-market; it is appropriate that we should begin to re-discover the philosophy and attitudes of Kane and adapt them to the contemporary environment. This Martin Cranley's Kane Lecture can help us to do. Indeed, this time the timing is perhaps healthier; Kane's book arrived too late to have enough influence to negate the effect of the potato-blight. The population-explosion was well advanced, the numbers having doubled in the previous half-century. At present we have the beginnings of a population up-swing, with an unprecedentedly large and well-educated population under 20. A re-discovery of Kane at this time is therefore timed better than was Kane's original book. We also.have a sovereign democratic State, which can respond to pressure. Kane, to succeed, would have had to depend on the Young Irelanders to create one.

Cranley summarises Kanes book by giving the chapter-headings: fuel, power, geology and minerals, agriculture, communications and the labour force. Under the latter heading he quotes: '..the lack of skilled labour, the need for labour stability, the supposed lack of capital, the need for industrial knowledge and industrial education..'

Cranley goes on to produce a 'neo-Kaneist inventory of the relevant resources today. Under the heading 'Minerals and Mining', as well as giving details of grades and known reserves, Cranley stresses that real job generation in this sector can come only from downstream manufacturing industry. Even with a smelter in production, there is no guarantee that die-casting, galvanising or brass-making will follow; these have to be planned for intheir own right. Cranley calls for the establishment of a National Minerals Intelligence Unit, at a high professional level, a repository of data on characteristics and industrial applications of native minerals. Such a unit could guide State policy froma position of independence from the multinational rings which dominate the world markets.

Cranley goes on in his inventory to cover forests, fisheries, fresh water and energy sources.

By the end of the century 8% of the country will be forested, compared to 1% on 1920. By the year 2000. Ireland should be a net exported of timber, the output being up five-fold. The energy crisis has transformed utterly the value of wood. The energy input required to produce a ton of aluminium is 300 times that required to produce a ton of wood.

On the food industry, Martin Cranley...refers to an important paper by Dr W K Downey and Dr M J Brennan which was presented to the Institute of Food Science and Technology on May 4 of this year. The highlights were noted on this feature on June 6. The placing of the Downey-Brennan paper by Cranley in the prestigeous Kane Lecture represents a welcome closing of the ranks, a development of a united political demand right across the spectrum of Irish technology, for more investment into the scientific study of our most basic native resource.

On sea fisheries, Cranley comes up with an aggressive and sound approach to their development. It is simply that Ireland becomes the factory-ship of Europe. Continent-based long-range fishing-vessels are economic nonsense. The whole fish stock of the Western shelf should be exploited by fleets based at the nearest land-point, which is Ireland, and the harvest appropriately packed, processed and/or chilled and distributed by rapid surface transport to all points in Europe. This is the concept that Iceland held out for, and won.

The spirit pervading the 1976 Kane lecture is positive and optimistic. It conveys, for the first time in the Kane lecture series, a feeling of confidence that we are technologically fit to to develop the economy to meet the demands of our expanding population, expressed in a buoyant home market. Let us see to it that by well-directed work this 'spring' is not betrayed by a modern analogue of the Famine.

August 10 1976 I note with interest that the annual Kane lecture by Martin J Cranlet summarised in this column on July 6 generated as a result of the publicity no less than 50 requests for copies. It is currently being published in Administration, the IPA periodical.

An aspect I missed in the July 6 summary was the question of 'Europe+30', the EEC long-term planning excercise. Cranley made the point that, were this to be implemented, we have no corresponding unit at the national level to associate with it: can we not have at least somewhere an 'Ireland+5' unit, as a step towards 'Europe+30'?

This very point was echoed by Professor Colm O h-Eocha in a lecture tothe Summer School of the ICTU at Wexford on July 22....

The Europe+30 excercise involved an attempt to sketch scenarios for thirty years hence, using such sociological and economic insights as were available to a team of 26 experts. No-one from Ireland participated at the working level. The working team was supervised by a board of 19 members, including one Irish participant, Senator Mary Robinson, who was there at the personal invitation of the Chairman of the Board, Lord Kennet.

In other words, the Irish scientific and technological establishment is so weak in its external linkages and international awareness that it missed the opportunity of participating actively in the development of a long-term plan for the economic community of which we are supposed to be a member. I welcome the fact that Cranley and O h-Eocha have now placed the matter officially on the agenda(33).

I remember hearing of Europe+30 about a year ago; I made a few telephone calls to try to track down the centre of responsibility. I found none. So we have a tabula rasa situation, without institutional vested interests, although with little imagination one can see the Institutes jockeying for position. Before the entrenchments are dug, let me therefore put in a plea for a flexible project-type sructure, rather than a unit within an existing body.

Let me be more specific: what we need is a steering committee representing existing political and institutional interests (all major bodies with long-term research and development responsibilities), a Director who will be the full-time co-ordinator of the work of others, and a working team consisting of existing Research Institute staffs and academics on secondment to the project, with associated junior assistance as necessary recruited for the purpose. The disciplines involved would include the sciences, engineering, agriculture, economics, sociology, education. A key unifying problem would be the energy question.

With such a team in existence, we as a nation would be in a position to contribute more to European long-term planning than the presence of one lady barrister-politician on the Board (not wishing to belittle the talent and energy of the lady in question!).

September 14 1976

It is now two years since the Minister for Industry and Commerce announced the forthcoming establishment of a National Board for Science and Technology, to take over the functions of the present NSC. The Bill, entitled National Board for Science and Technology Bill (1976), is now available and presumably will come up for enactment in the next session, if the Government survives the aftermath of the present emergency debate.

One of the positive consequeces of the Bill (if enacted) is to provide for an explicit Science Budget, to be placed each year before the Oireachtas for debate. This places science squarely in the public arena in its own right, upgrading it from its present status as a very minor item in the Departmental budget of Industry and Commerce.

There is however no mention of the Cabinet Committee of the principal Ministries which are users of science and technology; this formed part of the original announcement. Thus if for policy reasons it becomes necessary to set up such a Committee (eg if there were a real emergency, with regard to energy supply, or a war) there would be no statutory means of communicating with the Board, which could go its own sweet way irrespective of the emergency needs.

The momentum of statutary bodies and their ability to ignore a changing environment is notable. There springs to mind the God-sent opportunity for studying the effect of traffic-density on public transport punctuality and service level which presented itself on the occasion of the 1973 petrol crisis. Everyone was remarking what a pleasure it was to go by bus, and how punctial the service was. I made a strong attempt to interest Foras Forbartha in setting up a statistical experiment to measure this, with implications that are absolutely basic to all urban planning decisions, including the controversial motorway proposals.

I could arouse no interest whatever; the existing experimental programmes were being worked according to plan. Nothing would shake them, despite the visible crumbling of the environmental assumptions on which their experimental stratgy was based.

A somewhat similar situation exists in AFT, which appears to be impervious to the early warning signals of the collapse of the EEC Common Agricultural Policy, remaining glued to a philosophy of low-cost production of a product of variable quality (largely dependent on selling to Intervention) in an annual cyclic pattern such as to suit the convenience of the producers, without proper regard for the market or for the opportunities presented by an upgrading of quality.

I bring in these examples in order to illustrate the need for a political feedback-loop in science policy development. This loop will now exist embryonically in the Science Budget, albeit with a slow response-time, and with the high noise-level associated with a Dail debate. A Cabinet Committee would have provided a lever useful for situations where diversion of resources was necessary in the national interests between Budgets, provided of course that the Government knew what it was doing. The absence of such a level, in situations where the Government does not know what it is doing, and where any interference would probably be for the worse, is therefore unlikely to be mourned by the scientific community.

It is provided that the Board may accept payment for services.. so that it cna become a financially autonomous contract research body..

The bad tradition of leaving all the nominations to the Minister is perpetuated. This also holds for the IIRS, but not for AFT, which is partially democratic in that it has representatives of the producer organisations on its Board. This, of course, helps to explain the bias of the research policy of the latter. It is apity that the consumer lobby is not better organised, and that the principle of worker representation os not given a chance in the new structure.

It could be argued that until the interests of the workers, consumers and suppliers are represented by organised democratic lobbies relating to a particular function, the machinery for establishing proper feedback-loops for a system such as the NBST will not exist, and that there is no alternative to a Ministerial nomination procedure. A far-sighted Minister could nominate bearing in mind the need to balance these forces. The 'suppliers' inthis case are the Universities and Colleges of Technology. If the new Board were to be dominated by the suppliers (as is AFT), the emerging science policy would be geared to taking up the present supply of graduates, irrespective of quality and composition, and irrespective of the market. This would be a disastrous perpetuation of current inertia.

Domination by consumers would be equally disastrous, as there is little evidence that the main consumers of technology in Ireland have any clear idea of their long-term needs (with a few honorable exceptions).

The only real source of insight, such as to lead to an enlightened Board, is to be found among those working scientists and technologists who have some industrial experience. If these were to form the core of the Board, and the suppliers and consumers were to be selected to complement them, then we might be able to look forward to some positive developments.


We must leave to the reader's own judgment whether the situation has improved or otherwise since the NBST was founded finally in 1978. The writer's association with these events in the capacity of articulate observer ceased towards the end of 1976; he became a participant, developing the work of the TCD Applied Research Consultancy Group. This episode will, hopefully, form one of a number of case-studies for whoever writes the history of science and technology in Ireland in the first decade of the NBST.


1. Annual musical event of a competitive nature.

2. Annual event sponsored by Aer Lingus (the Irish national airline) aimed at promoting a scientific consciousness in second-level schools. See Chapter 1.4 for discussion of this.

3. Interdisciplinary groups consisting of people interested in science and technology who work in the relative isolation of provincial Ireland, out of easy reach of Dublin. Originating in Cork, they have existed from time to time in Waterford, Galway, Sligo, Limerick and Carlow.

4. Ireland, for the writer, means the Irish nation, composed of disparate traditions not yet united under one Government. It has always been his policy to try to look at Ireland as a whole, despite Partition. The fact that the present Chapter concentrates on the Rebublic reflects the fact that to study the development of a policy implies the existence of a State.

5. The Government, in the event, forgot about the National Science Council, and left it in existence for 10 years with the same personnel, until in the end they got around to replacing it with the National Board for Science and Technology in 1978. An important factor in generating this oblivion must have been the political and military events connected with the problem of British rule in Northern Ireland. These began in 1968 and peaked in the period 1969-73; the NSC was due for replacement in 1972.

6. This series has continued more or less biennially since..

7. For some reason (possibly euphony) the Irish names of the Agricultural Institute (an Foras Taluntais) and the Development Institute (an Foras Forbartha) have entered common usage, while that of the Institute of Industrial Research and Standards (Instituid Taighde Tionscail agus Caideaneacha) has dropped from sight. We will use the initials AFT, AFF and IIRS when referring to these bodies.

8. There is little of Irish interest in the writings of Bernal, despite his Irish origin. The author has contributed a chapter to an omnibus biography of Bernal due for publication in 1983, in which the Irish background to his early political and scientific thinking is analysed.

9. A voluntary body entitled 'Council for Science and Technology in Ireland', consisting of 10 or so representatives of voluntary and professional associations, had come together in the mid-sixties, under the chairmanship of Professor Scott (Chemistry, UCC). The writer was the secretary. It attempted, not very successfulty, to co-ordinate these submissions into some semblance of consensus. It may have ensured that there was some common ground between them. It also constituted an attempt to bring something of the spirit of the Regional Scientific Councils (of which Professor Scott was Chairman) into darkest Dublin. Dublin academics dismissed it as 'Scotts Circus'. Once the NSC was set up, the CSTI ceased to exist, having fulfilled a minor though possibly significant role in its gestation.

10. Generally regarded as the architect of the change in Government policy away from protectionism and towards export-led growth which took place at the end of the 50s.

11. Joint author, with HMS ('Dusty') Miller, of the report 'Science and Irish Economic Development' commissioned in 1963 by the Minister for Industry and Commerce in association with the Organisation for European Co-operation and Development (OECD). This report laid the basis for government intervention in science and technology via the NSC.

12. Director of An Foras Taluntais.

13. Note on Technicianship:

There seems to be missing from the Science Budget any explicit appreciation of the role of technicianship. Qualified manpower seems to be taken as meaning science, engineering, medical and agricultural graduates. This is a serious gap: the role of good technicianship is grossly underestimated in Ireland and it would be cosy to assume that its role is implicit in these categories.

The failure to fill this gap between scientist/engineer and craftsman is one of the causes of the isolation of science from economic life. For example, to check out a new process one needs to build and modify a pilot-plant, or modify an existing plant. A team of craftsmen to do the job as if for all time is an expensive solution. An innovation- minded unit within a forward-looking firm, unless backed by competent and versatile technicians, will be hamstrung by craft union rules and frustrated by delays in assembling the right mix of craft skills. To change a pump can involve a fitter, electrician, coppersmith and welder. A good engineering technician should have all these skills and some more.

The role of the technician in the basic research laboratory is, among other things, to be a source of craft lore in machining exotic materials, and generally to set standards in high-precision workmanship.. Yet the potential economic value of such centres of expertise, as found in the typical university physics workshop, remains unrecognised. So let me put in a plea for the explicit role of technicianship.....

14. See Professor Dahrendorf's remarks on (13/5/75) below.

15. See Chapter 1.2 for additional references to Tom Allen's work on inter-institutional information flows.

16. This clearly refers to the period of post-famine decline and emigration, which lasted up to 1961, a period of over a century, enough to embed a strong negative tradition in the culture.

17. by Michael Shanks, published by Penguin in 1967.

18. See Chapter 3.1, August 25 1971, for some more on the UCD hybrid vehicle.

19. The writer, along with Derry Kelleher, then Secretary of the Institute of Chemical Engineers, drafted a constitution for this body and a meeting took place in TCD of a small group supporting it; it never 'took off' except to provide a working panel of supplementary writers for the Irish Times column during 1972. For some background on Kane see 6/6/76 of this chapter; for an obituary of Bernal see Chapter 1.2 on 20/10/71.

20. The 'tool money' concept has been elaborated earlier in this chapter (October 14 1970).

21. Known as the Cooper-Whelan Report.

22. This problem nearly 10 years later (Oct 82) is still with us.

23. The rise and fall of Qeleq ltd, a Dundalk firm initiated by William Marshall, and Antrim provender-miller who developed an electrical analogue method of solving the least-cost feed-mix problem, would make an interesting case-study. They entered the world market with a machine which had an attractive 'hands on' quality ('analogue feel') and were successful for a period, despite the obsolescent technology. They realised early that they would have to 'go digital' but mis-timed the jump on to the micro-computing bandwagon. They had a package which was a forerunner of the 'visicalc' type of financial planner ready to go, but before the hardware was cheap enough. They would have had to use a PDP11.

24. I am indebted to Dr Alexander Schaub, of Professor Dahrendorf's cabinet, for some corrections submitted in a letter on April 4. Insofar as there were errors of fact or nomenclature in the original, they arose from the process of note-taking at a verbal presentation which was given without back-up documentation. Conor O'Toole also, in a letter on April 3, adds: '...lack of time and of, as yet, positive achievement led to the deletion from my recent talk of any mention of Commissioner Dahrendorf's bold plans for an overall European policy in Science and Technology, the programme for which was approved by the Council of Ministers on Jaruary 14 last...')

25. The announcement was made by Justin Keating on October 10 1974, the Bill was published in 1976 and the Board set up in 1978.

26. This scheme never to my knowledge go off the ground.

27. In the end this was never realised (see 14/9/76).

28. This concept has been developed earlier in this chapter; see 14/10/70.

29. Genevieve Franklin and R H W Johnston, Proceedings of the Statistical and Social Enquiry Society, vol XXIII part II (1974-5).

30. For example, the Conor O'Toole seminar reported on 27/3/74.

31. see Chapter 5.1 DIAS and Big Science, August 8 1974..

32. See also Note 19 above.

33. It looks as if the concept has begun to take shape in the 'Ireland 2000' series organised by an Foras Forbartha; these however are ad-hoc events, without research continuity.

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