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The complexity of science and innovation policy

January 30 2012



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Seminar Room 1.06, Old Surgeons' Hall, High School Yards, University of Edinburgh

Organised by:

Innogen at The University of Edinburgh


Evidence-based decision making requires that politicians and policy makers have good information and a good understanding of the inner workings of the science and innovation system. The trouble is that they are themselves actors in the system, motivated by their own interests, and often have a 'linear' view of their leverage. At the Rathenau Institute, we are developing a theoretical understanding of the science and innovation system as a complex adaptive system, while at the same collecting empirical evidence to show how complex patterns emerge from individual behaviour within the structures of the science and innovation system. During this seminar I will present some of the empirical results, including longitudinal changes in patterns of scientific and technological specialisation (emergent outcomes), the search strategies of individual research along their academic lifecycle (the rules of behaviour of individual agents), the organisation and leadership of medical research groups (local coordination), and coordination at system level. The mission of our institute is to reach out to the hearts and minds of politicians and policy makers at every level of the science and innovation system. I will present some of the implications of our work that we are trying to get across and which I would like to discuss with the seminar participants.


Edwin Horlings has been a senior researcher with the Science System Assessment division since October 2007. He is currently putting the final touches to the inventory of large-scale research facilities in the Netherlands, a project commissioned by the Van Velzen Commission. The initial results were presented to the commission and a large group of stakeholders in February 2010. The final report is expected in May 2010.

In April 2008, Edwin Horlings organized a workshop on 'eScience in Action', held in association with the AWT. Researchers involved in the development of eScience explained their work, and participants discussed whether and how eScience is likely to change the fundamental nature of scientific practice. A full report of the workshop is to be published.

Edwin Horlings is also involved in a number of studies examining the dynamics with various scientific disciplines. Alongside Daphne Duin of the European Distributed Institute of Taxonomy (EDIT), he is currently researching the scientific role of taxonomy. Another of his research projects relates to the cognitive and social dynamics within economic history. Edwin is also preparing a paper which examines the possibility of incorporating past research available in book form into the ongoing analysis of scientific disciplines.,25143,en.t4.html