This perspective makes sense of important parts of the science ecosystem that have been harder to defend from a purely economic perspective.
Understanding ecosystem effects in science makes it easier to make sense of some conundrums.
Such concepts correspond to “ecosystem services,” which are the non-tangible benefits freely emerging from a properly-functioning ecosystem.
As a simple example, take a forest which gives us both trees for building houses (“ecosystem goods”) but also places to walk in peace and serenity (an “ecosystem service”).
Trying to square my personal experience of the intense world of science with these answers led me to the concept of an ecosystem of science.
I realized that although there were myriad discussions between scientists on specific topics, there was no overarching description of how the whole system works and what the implications are.Science is one great success of our civilizations, from the erudition of the ancient Greeks and Arabs, to the practicality of the Renaissance and the Modern era.It is one of the key drivers of our increased prosperity and our ability to cause problems, but also our ability to solve them.A common saying is that “the best form of technology transfer is the moving van that transports the Ph. from his or her university laboratory to a new job in industry.” In reality, the United States is littered with university technology-transfer offices built on the dream of San Francisco’s Silicon Valley—or in the U. They are now waking up to portfolios of undramatic patents no one wants.There is a great deal we simply don’t know about the scientific ecosystem today.For example, it seems like globalization should be a good thing for science.It ought to lead to sharing information around the planet, pushing diverse teams to collaborate, and ensuring science spending is efficiently distributed to where it is done best. In the science ecosystem, powerful competitors rule, so organizations ranging from topical conferences to magazines never-endingly compete to maximize their impact and evolve. Globalization has now racked up the competition among scientists, among disciplines, among funders, among universities, among research journals, and among every other species in this landscape.On the whole, collectively, science is useful, but how does that square with the parts?In the ecosystem of science there are individuals and teams, but the ideas they build, and the bridges they build between ideas, can last much longer than either the individuals or the teams.As scientists bring up increasing numbers of their intellectual children who want to find their own niches, the esteem that each gains from their research results necessarily declines.They all strive to publish more research papers, to be noticed in the crowd, making it more difficult to discern intellectual wheat from chaff and ever harder to keep up with what is being done.