Saturday, July 17, 2010

PRTLI Funding Announced

The long-awaited PRTLI announcement occurred yesterday. UCD has received major funding including a 3 million euro grant to build up Economics and Political Science between UCD and TCD.

The TCD-UCD Innovation Academy also received funding. I would encourage people to look at this and to get involved in the debate as to what is meant by innovation. There is a real danger that innovation will get captured as simply meaning commercialisation of ICT and bio-science research and measured only in terms of short to medium run monetary gains. It is worth debating what the value of social science really is and the extent to which prevailing ideas about the role of university innovation clash with the nature of social science. When one reads some of the government documents on innovation, it almost sounds quaint to suggest that the real value of social sciences such as economics and political science is the creation of more educated citizens, greater scrutiny of government, greater understanding of the determinants of health, peace, war, of how our brains work, how we make decisions, and other important matters. The subset of social science research that produces immediate commercial spin-offs is relatively small. Colm has used the phrase "policies not patents" to capture one aspect of the external value created by social science research and this is something that applies fairly well to some of the research that readers of this blog spend their days at.

The drive toward making the investment in universities pay off (and this is a big investment now in really tricky fiscal times) could be a very good thing for social science in Ireland as some social science research (not least behavioural economics) is perfectly suited for real-world applications but we will all need to think carefully about how this will work.

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