Event Details

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  • Venue: Vinnova

KTH and the Making Universities Matter policy platform have initiated a new international seminar series “Historically-aware research and innovation policy”, intended to debate current issues in research and innovation policy. We aim to bring 2-3 international policy researchers per term to Stockholm over the next couple of years to hold seminars about policy that will be of interest to Swedish policymakers and academics alike.

Why ‘historically-aware’ policy?

Policy design and research tend understandably to focus on individual policy interventions, at the cost of understanding elements of context needed to make them succeed. Policy proposals can therefore often be technocratic and not necessarily well adapted to the context of use. A grown-up approach to policy requires at least an appreciation of history – an understanding of why people and institutions work the way they do and an understanding of what policies succeeded or failed in the past. This is signally absent from most policy discussions.

Once you take a longer view, for example, it becomes obvious that there are deep-seated institutions, cultures, interest groups and lobbies that do not go away. Many policy debates that appear to be about ideas turn out to be reflections of political battles between these groups. In our field, perhaps the most obvious and long-lasting battle is between the followers of Vannevar Bush and JD Bernal: should research be controlled by researchers or society more broadly? Our policies are often also path dependent: what we can do next depends on what we have done in the past, so the ‘right’ policy mix will be different from country to country. Finally, since there are always new generations of policymakers coming along it becomes important to maintain an ‘organisational memory’ about what works and what doesn’t.

What will the seminars do?

The new seminar series will not focus on history for its own sake, but will address current policy questions in a way that takes account of history and culture, and their effects in political and policy systems. The series will be chaired by Erik Arnold, one of the founders of Technopolis and Adjunct Professor in Research Policy at KTH. Seminars will be held in English. Discussions may be in Swedish.

Seminar 1 (held 14 March 2018 at KTH) featured Erik Arnold, and focused on Performance-based research funding as an instrument of research policy. The list of participants can be found here. Erik Arnold’s presentation can be found here.

Seminar 2 (held 1 June 2018 at Vinnova) featured Prof Philippe Laredo, and focused on The changing structure of research and innovation policies and the role of the OECD. The list of participants can be found here. Philippe Laredo’s presentation can be found here.

Forthcoming seminars include:

14 September – The importance of post-modern science policy with Arie Rip
18 October – Universities as strategic actors with Terttu Luukkonen
30 November – What triggers major decisions in Swedish research and innovation policy? with Erik Arnold

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