Commentary

  • Julian Cooper
Conference paper

Abstract

The status of East European civil science in the physical sciences and engineering was illuminated by five case studies: molecular electronics (Munn), materials (Rentzepis), lasers (Laude and Wautelet), industrial robots (Hopwood) and nuclear power (Janouch). The main conclusions, in my view, can be summarized as follows:
  1. (i)

    Basic research is carried out in all the fields, some by international standards of quite respectable quality.

     
  2. (ii)

    Good quality research is, however, hampered by shortages of state-of-the-art equipment. This problem appears to be endemic throughout the CMEA countries.

     
  3. (iii)

    In some cases this shortage of equipment leads to a concentration on theoretical research and to the pursuit of directions of research not popular in the West. (Although it should be observed that this theoreticist bias may also be promoted by other factors, including cultural traditions and the desire of some scientists to avoid more ‘politicized’ applied work).

     
  4. (iv)

    There is general agreement that there are scientists of good quality working in the physical sciences and engineering, but some evidence that they may be handicapped in their work by such problems as low pay and poor intra-institute personal relations (although conflicting evidence was presented on the latter point).

     
  5. (v)

    It is clear that scientists in the different East European countries derive real benefit from their contacts with colleagues in the West, including, in some cases, the possibility of bypassing the domestic scarcity of modern equipment.

     
  6. (vi)

    Regardless of the level of basic research, the central problem identified is the lack of practical application. There is a gulf between research and production, customer power is weak or non-existent, and the economic arrangements are such that they do not stimulate innovative behaviour. The only possible exception that emerges from the case studies is nuclear power.

     
  7. (vii)

    The overall conclusion about the status of the physical sciences and engineering is extremely gloomy and some saw the Gorbachev reforms as offering the sole prospect of change for the better in the foreseeable future.

     

Keywords

Physical Science Industrial Robot Innovative Behaviour East European Country Modern Equipment 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1989

Authors and Affiliations

  • Julian Cooper
    • 1
  1. 1.University of BirminghamBirminghamUK

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