“Basic and Applied Research”: Historical Semantics of a Key Distinction in 20th Century Science Policy

February 20-22, 2014, Bonn, Germany

The conference brings together researchers from the interdisciplinary field of science studies to discuss the origins, meanings and transformations of the distinction between “basic research” and “applied research” in the course of the 20th century. The aim is to compare how this key distinction of science and research policy has been handled by diverse ideological regimes of the 20th century, for example by the totalitarian regimes during World War II, by the liberal-democratic regimes of the West or by the socialist regimes of the East during the Cold War era, by decolonized states in the Commonwealth and by the recent innovation regimes of supranational entities such as the EU.

In the last decades, several authors have noticed with surprise that the basic/applied distinction and the notorious linear model of innovation persist both within science stud-ies and in science and innovation policy, although they have been deconstructed as analytically flawed. Thus, on the one hand, it is common usage to distinguish between “basic research” and “applied research” while, on the other hand, the inadequacy of the-se categories is often debated. This paradox can be solved if one analyzes the respective concepts as historical semantics.

Such a change of perspective raises some central questions that will be addressed in the contributions to the conference: Which specific terms have been used in different historical and national contexts? What is the pragmatic function underlying the different forms of usage? Do these opposing notions epitomize diverging ideas or ideologies concerning the goal of science in general? What kind of careers and trajectories did these concepts have, when observing them in retrospect? For example, why did the idea of “basic research” become so important after 1945?


Thursday, 20 February 2014
2:00 – 2:45 pm Introduction:
The Role of Semantics in Science Policy and in Science Studies (David Kaldewey/University of Bonn and Désirée Schauz/University of Technology, Munich)

2:45 – 5:30 pm Longue-durée Perspectives on the Basic/Applied Distinction Basic Research and Innovation: The ‘New’ Semantic Pair (Benoît Godin/Institut national de la recherche scientifique, University of Montreal) Talking, and Not Talking, about ‘Applied Science’: Promoting a Culture of the Twentieth Century Public Sphere (Robert Bud/The Science Museum, London) Coffee break From ‘Natural’ Authority to Tactics and the Conduct of Conducts. The Politics of Knowledge Between the 1950s and the 2000s (Dominique Pestre/L’École des Haute Études en Sciences Sociales, Paris)

5:30 – 7:30 pm Academic and Industrial Research Rewriting Applied Science: Purifying Histories of Knowledge-Making (Graeme Gooday/University of Leeds) The Entrepreneur, the Laboratory, the Investor and the State: Changing Concepts of Innovation in the Twentieth Century (Lea Haller/Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich)

7:30 pm Dinner

Friday, 21 February 2014
9:00 – 11:45 am German Research Policy in Fascist, Liberal and Communist Contexts Science Policy in Search of New Semantics: Basic Research in the Era of the Second World War (Désirée Schauz/University of Technology, Munich) ‘Grundlagenforschung’ and ‘Anwendungsforschung’ in Science Policy Contexts in Western-Germany after World War II (Gregor Lax/University of Bielefeld) Coffee break Basic and Applied Research in GDR Science Policy (Manuel Schramm/Technical University of Chemnitz)

11:45 am – 3:30 pm Research policy in Communist Countries From ‘Planning Science’ to ‘Goal-oriented Research’: Soviet Science Policy in Cross-ideological Encounters (Alexei Kojevnikov/University of British Columbia) Lunch break Theory versus (Policy Oriented) Empirical Research: Economics in State-Socialist Hungary after Stalin (György Péteri/Norwegian University of Science &Technology, Trondheim) White Flags in a Red Tide: Debates Over Basic vs. Applied Research in the Politics of Science in Modern China (Zuoyue Wang/California State Polytechnic University, Pomona)

3:30 – 5:30 pm Research Strategies in Colonial and Postcolonial Contexts Why Was Fundamental Research Deemed Necessary for Colonial Development after 1940? (Sabine Clarke/University of York) Coffee break On the Necessity of a Disjunction: Science, Government and Industrialisation in Free India (Jahnavi Phalkey/King’s College London)

5:30 – 7:30 pm American Research Policy in National and Transnational Perspective Basic Research as a Political Symbol (Roger Pielke/University of Colorado Boulder) Regulating the Transnational Circulation of Knowledge: Dissolving the Basic/Applied Science Distinction (John Krige/Georgia Institute of Technology)

Saturday, 22 February 2014
9:00 am – 12:30 pm Old and New Semantics in the 21th Century Basic and Applied Research: How Engineers and Industrial Scientists Use the Distinction (Rudolf Stichweh/University of Bonn) The Emergence of the European Research Council: Hijacking Basic Research by Geopolitical and Market Semantics (Tim Flink/Social Science Research Center Berlin) Coffee break ‘Tackling the Grand Challenges’: The New Rhetorics of Applied Research in EU Science Policy (David Kaldewey/University of Bonn) Concluding Discussion

The conference fee is 50€ (reduced 25€) and includes coffee and beverages, dinner on Thursday and lunch on Friday.
Please register until February 1, 2014. For further information, please visit our website at www.fiw.uni-bonn.de/fiw-veranstaltungen

The conference is supported by the Rectorate of the University of Bonn, the German Research Foundation (DFG) and the Forum Internationale Wissenschaft (FIW).

David Kaldewey Forum Internationale Wissenschaft, University of Bonn, Heussallee 18-24, D-53113 Bonn, kaldewey@uni-bonn.de

Posted: February 13, 2014