Chris Freeman Lecture

Professor Francisco Sagasti shares a holistic perspective on science and technology policy and politics

Science and technology policy and politics: from ideas to action 

  • Video transcript

    [Applause] Well there is no way you can live up to those introductions so I won't even try in there. First of all thanks very much for the invitation, thanks to all of you and this is really a privilege for me to be the first to inaugurate this series of lecture which I hope as you pointed out Jeremy will continue to be, especially because as you have heard and we all know, Chris Freeman was a very, very special person to all of us.

    Together with Geoffrey Oldham and with the participation of many several of you who are here, he basically made SPRU to be a beacon in terms of science and technology policy research and from my perspective what was interesting and important was not just science and technology and so on but science, technology and development which was my main concern.

    So as has been pointed out I became acquainted with SPRU in 71. Geoff Oldham travelled to Peru and Lima in 72 sorry, we met, he told me about SPRU, he told me about IDRC because at the same time Geoff managed to be the Deputy Director of SPRU and the Head of the Science and Technology Policy Program of the recently created Canadian International Development Research Center. That's very unusual for a scholar because on the one hand he was at the forefront of research and on the other hand, he had the money to support research in developing countries so basically Geoff made many, many different things happen that would have been absolutely impossible if those two roles weren't played at the same time.

    But what I would like to emphasize at the beginning, I will start with some ideas on my interactions with Chris and with SPRU very briefly then I will expand a little bit on the ideas that Carlota has put forward on conceptual advances in science and technology policy, although I will just focus on one or two to leave time for questions because I can really expand quite a lot. And finally I would tell you some experiences, just one of the many experiences that I had as President of the Republic and all the roles that I had to play at that time.

    First a personal and intellectual perspective on Chris Freeman. Actually after being here in England in 67-68, for the young people that's when the Beatles were just starting, that's when the Rolling Stones were just giving their first concerts, that's when the mods and the rockers, you remember the two different kinds in there, that was a wonderful time. Carnaby Street and everything else and flower children etcetera. But then when I went to the US after spending a year as a trainee in a consulting firm here in the UK, I began to look for a dissertation topic and I'm sure that all of you who have worked on the dissertation know that that's the most difficult and taxing thing to choose your dissertation. By chance I read an article by Russell Ackoff, one of the giants of operations research and systems analysis called 'Operations Research and National Science Policy' published in 68 in a UK book so I said this is fantastic you know, operations research my field, science and technology policy, something new, nobody knew anything about that so I began to take a look at some of the things that were done in the late 60s.

    Of course as probably has happened to all of you who think that you have an original research topic, after you first come in through the literature you find papers on this subject but that didn't deter me. I decided to continue, I managed to get Russell Ackoff as my dissertation advisor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and in the process began to use at that time systems thinking. The late 60s were the time in which the systems approach on everything, from mathematics, engineering, psychoanalysis I was going to say, okay and so on was coming and I was extremely fortunate to get to know some of the leaders in that field and to work with them: West Churchman, Russel Ackoff, Stafford Beer you know all of them, Sir Geoffrey Vickers and so on. All of them were people that I knew and I absorb and therefore try to develop my own ideas around systems thinking as applied to science and technology policy. And I did a dissertation on that, very nice conceptual and so on but then the most fortunate thing happened. When I came in contact with SPRU and especially with Chris, with Geoff, Charles Cooper, much later on Norman Raphie was over there around that time well and many of you and Dudley Seers whom I got to know, the first director of IDS and so on and so forth.

    From Chris I got something that really gave content to the frankly slightly empty concepts that come from system thinking and systems analysis and that was the historical background on the evolution of science and technology systems in the UK and in other places. What basically Chris did whom I met at a meeting in Buenos Aires in 1972, grounded on historical and empirical evidence those ideas that I had primarily from a systems thinking and conceptual point of view. As Carlota knows when you put those two things together very powerful things happen. And at that time the presence of Geoff, the work of Chris and many of you and there Charles Cooper among them for example on technology transfer and so on, allowed them to fuse those systems thinking ideas and concepts with systems of innovation and so on with the empirical evidence.

    But that was not the only thing that Chris did in addition to bringing technological change into economic theory. Through Chris and his friends I got acquainted with J.D Bernal, I read the book, ‘The Social Function of Science’ in the second edition not the original one from 1939. I read the 1965 and it really opened my mind really because J.D Bernarl was a giant, then immediately I went to read his four volumes on Science in History, republished by MIT which by the way were some of the original ideas to try to rethink Bacon and what I've been working on for the 30 last years and I still have four or five to go through in order to understand properly.

    As a footnote I would say that when I began to look at these ideas I found the famous phrase 'Knowledge is Power' so wonderful, this is a great idea and I use it as in epigraph in my first book in English but then I read Hans Jonas, you know the German philosopher who wrote a wonderful book in 84 called the principle of responsibility or the responsibility principle, anticipating at that time the ecological crisis and saying that humanity was on a very dangerous course and Hans Jonas in page 141, I remember because I use it, said the 'baconian program', wow you know, great the Baconian program. What is the Baconian program? So I began to look around and it was just a phrase you know, what is the Baconian program?

    Well anyway to make a long story short and that's a subject of another talk some other time my work on Bacon. I decided to really study what Bacon said and did and he was a most remarkable fellow, not only a philosopher, he was not an empirical scientist he was a thinker of science but at the same time he was Lord Chancellor here to Eliza- to James II actually, not only that he climbed all his life to the highest positions that is possible to have in the kingdom and was named Viscount of St Albans in February 1620 and at the end of March he was in the Tower of London accused of corruption and disbarred completely and forbidden to come to court and so on. So a very interesting person but he never wrote his program so what I did is finally ended up purchasing his 14 volumes of full works and then formulated my own conception of his program but if it hadn't been for this historical bend that I got from SPRU, I would have never ventured in that direction.

    In addition to that, Chris's organizing the review of ‘The Limits to Growth’, some of you remember, was essentially probably the best critique of mathematical-based future studies that there has been in his book on that, and well what the work he did with you and help really to bring into the mainstream the question of technological paradigms, technoeconomic paradigms has been quite important.

    But one of the things that he also was very insistent of was in the need for developing countries to create and consolidate their own science and technology capabilities. By the way those of us who worked in the STPI project which I will mention in a minute and then who worked in the UN Conference for Science and Technology in Vienna in 1979, tried to put those ideas in practice and we succeeded in the negotiations. In August 30 1979, we agreed on the Vienna Program of Action for the development of science and technology in developing countries to create a special fund and we got agreement from the US and a commitment from the US. Ted Hirschberg who was at that time one of the most revered fearers was the one who really led the the American delegation and we managed to get agreement. The only problem is that the following year, Jimmy Carter was defeated and Ronald Regean came in and all of that disappeared for till now. It has been now a long time since the ideas of creating a special program and fund for science and technology capabilities in developing countries, it has not risen again to the international agenda but we keep on trying, it will sooner or later.

    Let me move very briefly to some of the conceptual advances that emerge in the 70s which Carlota has recalled very briefly and I would like to expand a little bit. Many of them came from Chris himself, from all the work done by many of you at Sussex University primarily at SPRU and also at IDS.

    First the whole question of national innovation systems which you know he was the one who practically coined the phrase and his study of Japan is a classic, I looked at it basically to see what had happened in Japan and remember, those times were the times in which Japan was the example to follow for everyone. I remember when I was at the World Bank in the 1980s, we were all looking at Japan as the example, of course then came the 90s and Japan went down but not because of technological reasons but primarily because of social, less political but primarily social and cultural reasons. Those things that had allowed Japan to really forge ahead at a certain period, after they succeeded the same cultural traits became an impediment. Starting with machismo in Spanish, starting with the disregard of women for almost everything in there and they paid a very high price for that, so innovation system is one.

    The second one was one which Carlota has mentioned, I trained as an engineer and as an engineer I have a bias for things that work, you know things that you can make and make sure that they operate in practice so I was always concerned, how the heck do you move from the realm of science and technology policy all the way down through all the interstices of government and so on and so forth so finally some businessman who has to make a technological decision makes it in the direction you want. How do you do that? This is what we referred to at that time as the implementation gap. We could formulate policies very nicely but how do you put them in practice? How do you make them a real influence in decision making where it matters? In enterprise, in consulting firms, in research institutions, in universities, in at that time the beginning of professional associations and so on and so forth.

    In the STPI project which we launched in 1973 this was the main focus. Carlos Añez was one of the directors, I think the first director or one of the first directors of the Science Council of Venezuela and then at the end of a meeting we had in Cusco for all the Latin American heads of science council and we were delayed because of weather, we couldn't go back so we went back to the hotel. What do we do? Let's get a beer, get a drink and you know what Geoff said, well what are the problems we're facing? and Carlos said look I know about science policy, I know exactly what needs to be done, how the heck do I put it in practice, tell me? What are the means to do that? and that led to the whole idea of policy instruments which are the link between the formulation of a policy. A policy is basically criteria for decision making and then finally all the way down through a policy instrument that has a legal device to make it compelling, that has an organizational structure to make it work and has some operational mechanisms before you can have an effect.

    And what we did in that project with developing countries is to examine the different ways in which science and technology policies were formulated but more important, what were the main ways of making those policies filter all the way down from the bureaucracy to the decision maker in marketing, in whatever aspect of a corporation you are dealing with. This is what the main subject, there are about 20 books that came out, the outstanding book is the one from Mexico by Alejandro Nadal who produced an excellent empirical and conceptual evidence on why science and technology policies were not working in Mexico and what needed to be done to make them work.

    The other concept is the one that Carlota has mentioned, I remember one meeting which I think took place in Sussex when Amílcar Herrera, the Argentinian physicist and thinker in science policy was here. And he had used the concept well governments do many policies but when doing one thing they do something else as well, when doing that what Carlota said, and the fact is that we came and what we did with Alberto Aráoz was to codify from a conceptual point of view and this is where my systems thinking came very handy because I could use all those concepts of system thinkings in dialogue with Alberto Aráoz to develop the methodological guidelines to understand how policy instruments work in practice. And what we discovered is that you know, you make science and technology policies here but there is someone else in another room in another Ministry which is making labour policies, financial policies, credit policies, trade, fiscal, monetary whatever it is. What we didn't realize until we did the analysis empirically is that each of those policies as Carlota has said contains implicitly a content of science and technology.

    If you decide as part of your financing arrangements to really provide cheap credit for corporations to buy capital equipment, technological change is going to move in that direction. If you put constraints on labour basically to add a lot of additional cost in there, people are going to choose less labour intensive technologies which was a big subject at that time, no longer is a subject but what I'm trying to point out that one of the things we wanted to do is to uncover the implicit content of science and technology policies embedded in policies that you didn't think had nothing to do with you. And by combining them we came with a concept of resultant policies and lo and behold what you found out is that most of the time your other policies basically annulled, reduced the impact or made your science and technology policies irrelevant.

    I remember during the 80s discussing with businessmen and say well what about your technological- ‘forget about that I don't care my main problem is a financial problem so you know I want to solve this problem, if and when I really have the luxury I'll begin to think about technology’. That was the time in Peru of hyperinflation so what he told me was my whole capital can disappear in 24 hours so my most important person is not the technology manager, not the market, it's the guy in finance who's going to keep me alive for the next several days otherwise I disappear. But anyway the main point is that it's not enough to focus on your own very narrow, specific, selfish policy. Look around, try to uncover the implicit concepts, see whether they align with each other and if they don't then begin the negotiation. I'll come to negotiation later on when we come about political issues.

    Well the other thing that we had was the whole question of contextual factors which also comes directly from some of the things that Chris and Geoff and many of you did. And we distinguish between two sets of contextual factors that influence the design and implementation of science and technology policy - what we called a contextual factors that are the result of cumulative policy making over long periods of time. You pile up one policy on top of another sometimes even before the previous one has been totally implemented and you keep on adding like that and the best example we discussed many times with Carlota is the whole series of policies for import substitution in Latin America. What did they do? They created a mindset in the entrepreneurs which is very different from the mindset of someone like in Korea where they had a more open economy and that became part of the context so you really had to change the mindset, the values, the ways of thinking of managers and that's a contextual factor and of course there are the other ones which are invariant resource endowments, structural ones that have to do with population and so on and so forth.

    So you begin to see, you formulate a policy then you figure out how to implement it, then you have to take into consideration other policies, you have to take into consideration contextual factors and then lo and behold finally you can begin to see the impact of the policies you have designed after you have traversed that particular road.

    More recently just through Carlota last Sunday, I became acquainted with the work of Chris and Francisco Louca on the five spheres or five subsystems which he published in 2001 as far as I remember and which provides after reading it, even in a cursory way, expand and enhances the framework that we had at that time by considering not only science, technology, economy but also politics and general culture in a much more organized way than we did before so therefore that gives you a sense of some of the conceptual advances.

    But then something unusual happened, thanks to Geoff Oldham in particular, we managed to get a gathering of all the country coordinators of the STPI projects 40 years after the project had begun. We met in Lima, there were 10 countries: Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, Venezuela, Peru, India, Egypt, South Korea and Macedonia. We met in Peru, unfortunately three of them had already passed away, the coordinators of Egypt, India and Macedonia but we asked ourselves the question, what was the impact of what we did 40 years ago? And it's fantastic there is a book and it will be in the reference to there you can download it, and I uploaded it to my web page but it's called 'Looking Back to Move Forward' and it's basically the idea what is it that we learn from that?

    And basically we learned that there were some places where policies worked and they were learning and you know it's all explained in detail I won't go into that but we had in first Korea, Brazil and to a lesser extent Mexico, in a first group that managed to implement science and technology policies. Another group like Argentina and Peru, Peru had hyperinflation, Argentina had hyperinflation, there is no way of implementing science and technology or other policies with hyperinflation, so therefore very little happened there. And then there were some other countries that were in the middle but what we found is that to a large extent what we had written not only in the national reports but in the main comparative report of that goes across the 10 countries policy by policy, what we found out is that what we had proposed at that time stood the test of time by and large, not everywhere not in every case but by and large.

    I've emphasized the practical side of science and technology policy but let me stress again that grounded, comparative, policy-oriented, rigorous research matters. Before you can do something you first have to think about it, you have to have the idea, you have to have the concepts and this comes from the work that a university like this one does, research, thinking, collaboration, competition, new ideas, new concepts and so on and this is essential. As I said many times before in my own country, if you can't even imagine or think of a better situation than the one you are in, you're locked in where you are forever so imagination and rigor together are what really requires so that's the first act but it's not enough.

    Then you really have to go through all the details of how to make those ideas, those concepts, those systems thinking derived proposals that you have made, to work in practice so you need to move between the two but without the first one, without rigorous research and thinking, nothing can happen - that's a prerequisite.

    Let me come to the third topic that I know some of you want to hear about more which is the transition from policy to politics. Carlota has mentioned that I've always been interested in politics, in policy, I did a lot of things and politics and so on and so forth but then came a moment when I was negotiating with the head of the chief of staff of the prime minister's office, a very capable person, who basically had one idea in mind which I really fought against that and you know there were some sleathy things going behind by the way which I won't dwell on but basically we clashed tremendously and I needed her to approve one minor bureaucratic piece in a previous loan for science and technology before we could unleash the prospects of 100 to 200 million loan and she wouldn't budge and she wouldn't do it. And I spent six months bargaining with her, talking to her advisors, talking to the staff and then when I came out I said there is no way as a policy researcher, policymaker and advisor, I will subject myself to that indignity, I might as well become a politician myself which even more of an indignity but that's another story in there. So that was the moment when I said the heck with it so the age of 72, I decided enough as a policy advisor, as chairman advisor of two ministers and so on well let's get into the realm of politics.

    In 2016 together with other colleagues and a very good political leader at that time, I helped to create a new political party in Peru. It was a very, very complicated process because at that time in order to avoid new parties for entering into the freight the incumbent ones in congress have pass a law that required 735,00 valid signatures to register a political party. And for them to be valid they had to be checked against your signature in your ID card so they discarded about a third of them so we had to gather 1.2 million signatures. And through the leadership of Julio Guzmán, we did it.

    During that time I became the head of the party platform, I became the head of a strategic thinking and planning of developing things in the party. And then after being the head of the platform and policy strategy committee, came this elections who were by elections the congress had been dissolved and you needed to elect a new congress to complete the five-year term and my colleagues in the party said well you have to stand Francisco and I said no look, I am an executive person being a congressman, how boring you have to discuss with everybody so I resisted that but they insisted because the argument was that you're very well-known so you will be able to sort of like pull some of the other candidates so I accepted.

    I ran out of 130 parliamentarians, I got the eighth highest vote for that, I became a parliamentarian, the spokesperson for my political party and as Carlota has pointed out, I was the only one who could be the chairman of the science technology and innovation committee. They had 13 members and this is something quite interesting because out of the other members, the other 12 members, only three had postgraduate degrees at the Master level and only four had finished university. How do you chair a committee of that type when most of the people don't know anything about the subject? That was a fascinating learning process and by the way I was talking to some of the students earlier about grassroots and so on, this requires something that to mention Chris had a profound respect for other people, a profound desire to learn from those who even don't have all the background. So if I could tell you that I learned so much from two congresswoman from the remote part of the country who knew nothing about science and technology but they knew a great deal about agriculture. So my task was one of listening to them and figuring out how to really put those in terms of science and technology and it worked extremely well. Really they were happy, we were happy and more important than everything what we proposed was enriched by their own contributions and really adjusted to their own needs.

    How did I become president? I just said very briefly, I didn't plan it, I wasn't checking it, first of all I wasn't planning to be a congressman and then when the president was impeached, when a new president came in and there were protests, violence, two people killed and so on and so forth, after six days in office the speaker of parliament who had become president had to resign so the deputy speaker became speaker and then by constitutional succession became president, but he resigned also. So all of a sudden, we had no president, no speaker, no deputy speaker at the house in parliament. The country was for 36 hours without authorities, I think that probably things were better at that time. But anyway so in the end after very laborious negotiations, they decided some of my colleagues to put my name to head a slate and you know they did that it was an extremely complicated, convoluted process.

    There are some hair-raising stories that I almost didn't make it and I'll tell you that little anecdote because the deadline to submit slates for the speakers and other roles was 1p.m. and I was at my house where my office is and it's about 45-50 minutes from parliament and they told me that at 12:30, so there was no way I could get. Fortunately thanks to my younger colleagues, I had registered my electronic signature in advance so I was able to put my ID card , egistered my electronic signature. The other members of the slate put their names on sign and well in the end the other slate was disqualified so there was no other option. So as they say, one legal commentator says I am the only president in Peru elected by his political enemies, they had no other choice in there.

    Well what do you do at that time? First of all you know it was the worst possible time you can imagine. The Covid pandemic raging, causing tens of thousands of deaths, the health system collapsed, no vaccines - zero, lack of medicinal oxygen, people were dying on the streets. Because of that the worst economic downturn in decades. In 2021 we went down by 14%-13% in terms of the GDP. General elections in a highly polarized environment just six months after. Social unrest and violent protests which I had to deal with and I had some of my former classmates from school calling me a coward because I didn't take the armed forces out and shoot all the protesters in sight and which unfortunately was done by the current president, you know this is a big difference in there and I could go into that if you want. Political polarization, widespread corruption and three presidents in one week - what do you do there?

    Well I'm getting ahead of myself but let me tell you just two previous stories to what I did with one science and technology policy issue. When I was involved in the STPI project in the 70s at the same time I became vice chairman of the Industrial Technology Institute in Peru. The government had passed a new law, had provided a lot of funds and money for that but it was conditional on several institutional changes and so I was named vice chairman. The chairman was a close friend of mine so we get together and then I said don't worry, I've done my PhD dissertation on this so I came armed with a 10-year plan which I did it about a month knowing the situation and so there we go to meet with the executive director, the acting executive director and he said ‘oh thank you very much for coming Mr Chairman, Mr Vice Chairman’, yes I said 'we have a 10-year plan here to do' – ‘no no no no no I have a more immediate problem’. What is the problem? ‘Well the day after tomorrow I have to pay the payroll - I don't have a single cent in the bank, what do I do?’ Say what? Anyway because of the reorganization someone forgot to put the budget for that so in two days we had to scramble for money, we ditched the 10-year plan and said the heck with it, you really need to reorganize this place because there's no way you can work with it.

    The main lesson is very simple that unless, you know long-term science and technology plans, policies, all the things that we all work on, they're worth nothing if you are not able to solve practical, immediate administrative problems as well. So you need to have those two minds: the long-term vision, the idea of where you want to be and at the same time you have to be able to pay the payroll in two days and get the money for that. That was quite a grounding in practical things, that's one of the lessons.

    Several years later in 1981 when I became a member of the National Science and Technology Council, I suggested that Peru should get a loan from the multilateral development institutions, the World Bank, the InterAmerican Development Bank and the Andean Finance Corporation which I had just started. So I went on a mission to Washington, I met with people, came with a report and prepared it there and so on etc. Well nothing happened. The government wasn't prepared, they didn't understand what science and technology was at the level of the government. Then came another government in which we had hyperinflation, had terrorism and the country was in tatters, was a loss decade so this idea of getting a loan for science and technology... and by the way the Peruvian government stopped paying all its debts to the multilateral development banks, to private banks and so on. We were something like at that time $3.5 billion dollars in arrears so we were not a subject of credit by anyone, for anyone so we couldn't get a loan and so on.

    So it took quite some time really to get back into, only in 2000 and here someone from IDRC who Geoff knew very well, I don't know whether any of you knew James Mullin who was a vice president of IDRC. He had been, he had retired came as head of the mission we worked together because I knew him very very well and we prepared a plan that took five years to materialize. Starting in 2002 we finally were able to get the loan operational and it was only $36 million US dollars in 2007 by all kinds of shenigans the Prime Minister designated me as chair of the executing unit of that loan. Well and we really moved fast.

    To make a long story short we managed to get (after a wrangling with this woman I mentioned before), the second $100 million loans and what happened that one day I get a phone call from a friend in the prime minister's office and he said ‘Francisco, I have some good news and some bad news for you'. 'What's that?'. 'The good news is that such and such (this woman who was sort of the chief of the staff), she's leaving’ say 'Wow hallelujah, great! You know what's the bad news?'. ‘She's going to become the secretary of the council of ministers’ and I said don't worry about that, I have nothing to do with the council of ministers I only work with the prime minister's office and then who is going to be the next, who was going to follow her? And he said someone that nobody has heard of, who's that? Julio Guzmán. To make a long story short – Julio Guzmán was the guy who founded the party I belonged to, the political party Partido Morado a few years later but I had hired him as a research assistant in the 1980s and 1990s. And I had written his recommendations for graduate work and for employment. We after being blocked for about six to seven months, in less than three weeks we got approval for a 100 million dollar loan and that unleashed a second, a third.

    To make the story even shorter by now, 16 years later that agency which I began to chair by the way, one of the most important things we did with all the experience beforehand we managed to get a really highly competent executive director and I had to fight a political battle against the Prime Minister and several ministers to designate him and I won. He remains still in charge although they kicked him out for two years and then realized that without him it couldn't work so they brought him back but by now that institution has mobilized more than a billion dollars in support for science, technology and innovation - more than a billion dollars about something between 35% and 40% of the budget for science and technology and innovation in Peru but we started in 81 and had to wait for a very, very long time.

    What were the lessons that I took from that experience? First never give up, be stubborn, push for it, don't stop even if it takes decades to succeed. And when temporarily defeated, use the time to plan your comeback and get it very ready so the moment your opportunity comes, you hit the ground running. It was Pasteur who said 'Chance favors the prepared mind' so use that time to prepare yourself. And the second lesson was it's not enough to design policies and to design the policy instruments, you really need to get involved in politics, power plays are important in that and let me come to the last example of this.

    In 2017 when I was just working with a political party trying to help create it and so on, together with a colleague, Lucia Malaga with whom we published our latest book as well, we wrote a book on Science and Technology policies in Peru in the 21st century called 'Un Desafío persistente', a persistent, a continuous challenge in there and there we neatly decades of research all put in a wonderful book published by the Fondode Cultura Económica it was for all to see, great. Then following that book as I mentioned, I became a parliamentarian and chair the committee and one of the main issues that we had to really face was the design of a new governance structure for science and technology and lo and behold we had it all designed in the book, wonderful, great you know was all there.

    But then you know what happened, after we did that we tried to bring that into the committee that I chaired proposing a new governance structure and then I became the chairman of the committee, they had to evaluate the proposals I had made as a researcher and that's a very different role. There as I mentioned earlier I had to bring most of a congressman in my committee on board, then we had to persuade the whole committee, then we had to hold hearings to get all the constituencies on board, to get entrepreneurs, researchers all the fights and everything in there and you know it's a very, very different thing than designing a policy based on research, it's a completely different project.

    We managed actually in there to propose new legislation that more or less adhered to the original ideas but we had to make some adjustments so let me tell what were the different perspectives that we had. As a policy researcher I had to develop and propose a governance structure that made logical sense based on research and empirical evidence on a diagnosis of the situation with clear objectives and designing a set of organizational, incentive, regulatory measures that will make the policy work in practice, that was my task as a policy researcher. However from the viewpoint of a congressman who chaired a congressional committee, I had to secure agreement of all or most, we got all finally, consult with constituents and search for common ground in the design of the new governance structure.

    The agreements did not necessarily coincide with what we had proposed as researchers but was the best we could agree on that, slightly different but not too complicated and we finished doing that just at the end of my tenure as congressman but then I became president, and the new chairman of the committee passed the proposal for legislation I had to enact which I had prepared before, so I had to see it and receive it from the point of view of a president at the head of the executive and that is a different perspective altogether. I had to view it from the perspective of someone of charge of putting it in practice, making sure it complied with all the existing regulations which are immediate in there. Any one of you who has worked in government. Not only that the procedures, the budgetary demands and so on to make sure you know, and finally then after we made those changes in the executive I had to go back to parliament and then say well look this is what -'but you said this', yeah I said that before but we need to do something different at present. So in a short period of time I played three different roles that of a researcher, that of a legislator and that in charge of the executive of putting that in practice but the story doesn't end there.

    Immediately after we left government, the new government basically at the suggestion and behest of a scientist who had proposed a different structure for governance and lost at every time, proposed it in congress and lost it there but he had the ear of the new president, so the new president proposed a complete change basically throwing overboard all the work of several years and negotiations and everything, so the heck with it, we need to play a different role, a role that in a sense basically I had to defend the proposals that we made, I had to become an activist there.

    I went to see the president my successor, I gave him a briefing which he didn't read because he didn't read anything at all, his advisors didn't read that and they kept going along so we had to go to the press. I went out, we mobilized and so on and so forth and everything got sort of frozen. The person who had proposed this was named Minister of Environment because he wanted by the way to create a Ministry of Science and Technology which is nonsense, it would have been the nineteenth ministry in Peru, totally fragmented and because of explicit and implicit policies would have made sure that science and technology was totally sidelined so we proposed a different structure. But anyway once he got his ministry we shut up and was quiet and didn't do anything more so I would characterize those transitions in the following way.

    A transition from rational policymaking to transactional, give and take, parliamentary negotiations to operational, execute something in the agency and finally to political, in terms of being an active resistance to those [inaudible] that they wanted to do. We succeeded up to a point, still the structure is in place and what I want to tell you is that as policy researchers who most of you, although I know many of you have had some practical political experience, are mostly based in academia you should be aware of those transitions. Think in terms of a policy going from the rational to the transactional to the operational and to the political. Unless you understand that then your proposals, your ideas are going to be very nice which are important but they will be at the dissertation shelves here and nothing more would happen and I'm sure that all of you want really something to happen.

    But what I would like to say in those examples is that change is possible, even if it takes a long time, you can put your ideas into practice, they can become a reality. You need to have a dogged persistence and continue, never give up, be stubborn in that, make sure that you learn, don't be narrow, be open to listen to the others because they enrich your idea and you may have to you know traverse in slightly different ways but the ultimate objective if you keep it in mind, by persistence, guile, political manoeuvring, pushing people, resisting and so on and so forth, then you'll make things happen and this is what policy research is all about. It's not about your Masters or your PhD degrees, it's not about the intellectual satisfaction, it's about changing things on the ground and this brings me back to conclude with Chris Freeman.

    One of the things that really, really impressed me about, of course, we all know his intellectual, academic and teaching achievements but to me his humanity, his kindness, his generosity, his integrity, his regard for others are things really that we need to imitate definitely. And there have been many instances of me thinking ‘what would Chris have done in this case?’ or Geoff or what many other people that I hold as examples of integrity and all the things I said, are extremely important and this is what Chris in addition to all his intellectual achievements and all that I learned from him and the many colleagues, some of whom are here I think that Martin, Norman, Raphie, we all remember Charles Cooper, we remember some of them, Keith Pavitt and so on. I learned so much from all of them and the idea to me is that you can basically use your imagination to find options and ideas that can be put in practice in order to face the problems that we have at present. I could talk a great deal about them but I'm sure you know them in a major, in a major way. So thinking and practice, keep those two things together and you need a quote to end a talk like this one so I'm going to quote a relatively modern Canadian philosopher which I'm sure some of you know well - Leonard Cohen.

    If you take a look and I urge you to do that, take a look at his presentation it's in YouTube, Leonard Cohen, his song 'Anthem' in London and he begins to say this and because my voice is grave, I think I can imitate him to a certain extent. He begins the song by saying 'Ring the bells that still can ring, forget your perfect offering. There is a crack in everything, that's how the light gets in, that's how the light gets in' and I would say that we should all become searchers and researchers to find those cracks through which the light might come in to illuminate the political and policy darkness of our times. Thank you very much.

On Thursday 19 October 2023, Professor Francisco Sagasti, recent former President of Peru, gave a captivating lecture on Science and technology policy and politics: from ideas to action at the University of Sussex. Held in honour of the pioneering Chris Freeman, founder of the School’s Science Policy Research Unit (SPRU), the lecture drew a diverse crowd including current SPRU doctoral students and alumni. Sagasti was welcomed by SPRU's Head of Department, Professor Jeremy Hall, and esteemed scholar and Honorary SPRU Fellow, Professor Carlota Perez. During the talk, Sagasti shared insights from his extensive career, emphasising the vital link between policy ideas and practical implementation. He highlighted the need for rigorous research, imaginative thinking, and open-minded collaboration to bring about tangible change in the world.

Sagasti's career transition from policy to politics, culminating in his role as President of Peru in 2020-21, provided fascinating insight into realising policy, both theoretically and practically, from multiple perspectives. He encouraged the audience to cultivate a dual approach, emphasising the importance of big thinking coupled with long-term vision and administrative awareness for practical operation. 

He reflected on his connections with SPRU, beginning in the 1970s and the influence that Chris Freeman and other colleagues had upon his career journey in research and politics. On a personal note, Sagasti highlighted Chris Freeman's "many personal qualities that are worth imitating: humanity, kindness, generosity, honesty and regard for others" before closing with encouraging words to researchers and policymakers aspiring for change, reminding them of the profound impact that they can have on the world.

sagasti addressing students

The following day, Professor Sagasti expanded upon his lecture discussions with a seminar for postgraduate research students. The conversation delved deeper into science and technology policy, and how to make things happen in complex political settings, drawing on his experience of governing during crisis times. The seminar provided a space for students to engage directly with Professor Sagasti, ask questions and gain insight from his breadth of knowledge and experience in this field.

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