The scientific ecosystem also serves us in ways that are harder to articulate. It instills in us an appreciation for the beauty of mathematics, a belief in the inherent values of education, trust in the intrinsic worth of transnational intellectual communities, and interest in scholarly discussion.
Yet funders and governments have undervalued these essential ecosystem services. And the three trends mentioned above – globalization, digitization of knowledge, and the expanding ranks of scientists – are exacerbating the problem.
As globalization increases competition, it also reinforces certain narratives – such as those dictating which research areas deserve the most funding. In my meetings with government officials around the world, I have seen this firsthand. They trumpet the importance of science to their countries’ futures, and then identify the areas that they “uniquely” are spearheading. The areas are usually the same.
Just as “trending” topics in the media can come to dominate public attention, trending research areas attract the vast majority of funding. Support for parallel research in the same areas reduces the efficiency of each investment, and such herding behavior by donors may even preclude some of the most significant advances, which often come as a result of combining the results of seemingly unrelated research .Jeremy J. Baumberg, “What Is Threatening Science?September 21, 2018” at Project Syndicate
Well, the geniuses who draw trends together in a spectacular way do tend to be isolated individuals, often out of step with their fellows. Not very global, when you think of it.
See also: At the Guardian: The “widespread notion that academia is morally superior is ridiculous” “As outdated as bloodletting”