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February 27th, 2008
Academic research should be done in the public interest, not driven by the aims of a company. But this traditional approach is being continually eroded by the Government's view that science is synonymous with technology, even though there's no strong evidence that pouring money into industrial partnerships does a better job of fostering innovation. Science is much more than just technology. Yet, the research councils expect universities to act like the research and development wing of a corporation.
I do basic research in nanoscience, which is an area that can be easily applied to the commercial world, but the reason I'm doing it is not to develop a product that Procter & Gamble or Toshiba can market in five years' time: it's to address fundamental questions about nature. If I wanted to work in industry, I'd be there - I wouldn't be at a university. I know many PhD students and postdoctoral researchers who want to pursue an academic career, addressing the bigger questions rather than working in industry, but they are increasingly realising that they'll just end up being paid less to do the same research.
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