The greatest long-term risks for humanity will not come from weapons of mass destruction, global war, disease or famine, according to Donald Braben, visiting professor in UCL’s Department of Earth Sciences.
Instead, it will come from the rising tide of bureaucracy and control which is strangling human ingenuity, he argues in the book, ‘Pioneering research: a risk worth taking’, which is published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on 6 August 2004.
Citing global trends and attitudes that currently threaten the adventurous scientific spirit, Professor Braben suggests that a radical overhaul of the system that directs academic research is needed to maintain originality and freedom of expression.
Professor Braben, who is also Chief Executive of Venture Research International Ltd, says:
“Until the 1970s scientists who thought they had a great idea would work on it to explore its potential. But that’s not possible today. Researchers must now convince a committee before they can do anything. Originality and pioneering research are discouraged because committees struggle to be imaginative. There are more scientists today than ever before, but they concentrate on refining existing knowledge.
“The main problem is that peer review, the bureaucratic god of science without whose blessing research cannot be funded, has been deemed infallible. That’s not too bad in the mainstream where everyone more or less agrees what the most important problems are. Pioneers, however, rarely agree with anyone and this rare breed are now wrestling to scrape enough funds together to test their ideas.