GCSA at 50: reflections of the past, present and future of scientific advice. By Andrew Howard

Solly Zuckerman, left, overlooks PM Wilson’s briefing on the effects of pesticides on peregrines.

On Tuesday, Remembrance Day, the Royal Society hosted an event marking the 50th anniversary of the Government Chief Scientific Advisor (GCSA). Discussions were held across two panels with a total of 5 men that have held the role – including the incumbent Mark Walport – concerning the history and fate of scientific advice. This took place markedly just 24 hours before the role of scientific advice in policy-making suffered a serious knock-back, as it emerged Anne Glover’s current position as the European Commission’s CSA was being scrapped. Nonetheless, at the end of 50 years of scientific advice in the UK, the future role of the GCSA looked to be promising from the anniversary’s proceedings. Continue reading

The Ideal of Diffusion, by Calum Kennedy

The ideal of diffusion

The 1960s produced a series of economic commentaries on the way in which innovations spread throughout a market. Ranging from Rodgers in 19621 to Bass in 19692 these all developed around the concept of diffusion. Developed formally by Rodgers, and held by many people today, the diffusion theory is a specialised concept of communication. This communication, verbal, nonverbal, and observational, then produces a diffusion curve. What I will attempt to lay out here is a very short critique of the basic theory of diffusion. Unlike most economic commentaries however I will start before the innovation stage and use more recent studies into the sociology of science to examine the nature of scientific investigation and draw parallels to the nature of innovation. When diffusion models are examined in this way they are not only revealed as misleading descriptions of the interaction between firms and consumers, but lacking in any real explanatory power. I suggest instead that a translation model would be far more effective at both explaining the spread of innovations and offering advice towards more effective interactions between firms and markets in the future.

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