The Sussex Energy Group

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Cycles of Invention and Discovery: Rethinking the Endless Frontier

Thursday 4 May 13:00 until 14:00
Jubilee 155
Speaker: Venkatesh Narayanamurti and Toluwalogo “Tolu” Odumosu
Part of the series: Special SPRU Seminar


In this book talk we identify and reflect upon a number of challenges to research funding, institutions, infrastructure and culture in the United States. Utilizing contemporary and historical examples we highlight a number of pressing challenges to the national research enterprise and detail how the status quo emerged and crystalized.

Reflecting on the genesis of the information and communications revolution and through an analysis of the “hard case” of Nobel Prizes in Physics we show that the causal direction of scientific discovery and radical invention are often reversed. These present us with a different research model that arose in a culture of so called “applications-oriented research” that was present in numerous 20th century industrial laboratories. We use this example to enumerate the key ingredients of highly successful R&D institutions. By exploring the daily micro-practices of research, we show how distinctions between the search for knowledge and creative problem-solving break down when one pays attention to how path-breaking research actually happens. We present a new model that transcends the standard model of “basic versus applied” research described in the still influential report Science, The Endless Frontier. We will end by discussing the need for new integrative institutions to address global challenges such as climate change and alternative energy sources.

Short bios

Venkatesh Narayanamurti is the Benjamin Peirce Research Professor of Technology and Public Policy at Harvard. He has served on numerous advisory boards of the federal government, research universities and industry. He was formerly the John L. Armstrong Professor and Founding Dean of the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, Professor of Physics and Dean of Physical Sciences at Harvard. He is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and an elected member of the U.S National Academy of Engineering and of the Royal Swedish Academy of Engineering Sciences.

Toluwalogo “Tolu” Odumosu is Assistant Professor of Science, Technology and Society, and Assistant Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering in the School of Engineering and Applied Science at the University of Virginia. He also holds a Research Associate position at Harvard University. He heads the Digital Privacy Research Laboratory in the Department of Engineering and Society at the University of Virginia.

'Cycles of Invention and Discovery' is published by Harvard University Press.

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By: Nora Blascsok
Last updated: Friday, 7 April 2017