So rich was the scientific harvest of the early 20th century that it transformed entire industries and economies. Max Planck laid the foundation for quantum physics, Barbara McClintock for modern genetics, Linus Pauling for chemistry—the list goes on. But in the 1970s, the nature and pace of scientific discovery began to stagnate due to a combination of peer review, mandated justification of spending, and the push for short-term miracles. In Scientific Freedom, first published in 2008, Donald W. Braben presents a framework to find and support transformative scientific innovation. Even in the earliest stages, groundbreaking research can look unrecognizable to those who are accustomed to the patterns established by the past. As Braben argues, support for this research requires rethinking the processes used to discover and sponsor scientists with revolutionary ideas—and then giving them the freedom to explore.
Donald W. Braben is a scientist and author. From 1980 to 1990, he led British Petroleum’s Venture Research program, for which he developed a radical, low-cost approach to finding and funding researchers whose work might redefine their fields. He currently holds an honorary position at University College London.
A superb book, both inspiring and provocative. Braben strives to ensure that the most creative scientists, if completely free to pursue unorthodox research, will aim to attain the ‘elixir of civilization.’
Nobel Prize in Chemistry 1986
All scientists, granting agencies, and policymakers should read this refreshing book and respond to the need to change current funding paradigms.
Sir Richard J. Roberts
Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 1993
Braben has long held visionary views of how to fund the most innovative and creative science. It cannot be denied that, with the right financial support, his approach can be made to work spectacularly.
Sir Martyn Poliakoff
University of Nottingham, Michael Faraday Prize 2019
A sobering (but hopeful!) exploration of the stagnation in what I would call ‘paradigm shifting research’ and what to do about it.
Braben does an excellent job of highlighting the need to reassess the selection criteria used to decide what scientific projects receive funding.