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Terence Kealey: The Myth of Science as a Public Good

This is part of a series of blogposts republishing previous events of the Oxford Hayek Society and the Oxford Libertarian Society. The original blogpost was published here.


On Friday 22 May 2009, Dr. Terence Kealey, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Buckingham, addressed the Oxford Libertarian Society at Christ Church on the subject of: 'The Myth of Science as a Public Good'.


You can find a YouTube video of the talk below.



Terence rejected the conventional economic analysis that science is a public good - that is, non-excludable and non-rivalrous in consumption - that necessitates government subsidies.


Instead, Terence posited that it is organised in 'invisible colleges', making government funding irrelevant. Moreover, the prevailing orthodoxy limits research into the correlations between science funding and economic growth. Whatever limited available evidence there is implies "no clear-cut relationship" between the two. If true, this refutes dogmatic assumptions and contradicts the theoretical justification for government intervention in science funding.


The talk developed on the theme of Terence's recent book, Sex, Science and Profits (2008). In its wide-ranging historical survey of the interaction between government, science and the market, he argued that innovation is an evolutionary process rather than led by government policy - which measurably obstructs scientific progress more than it helps it.


The subsequent discussion was extremely stimulating and eclectic. Topics included CERN, the Wright Brothers, public schools, the role of philanthropy, tuition fees, patents and pharmaceutical regulation. We thank Terence warmly for visiting us and offering such an engaging talk!


Dr. Terence Kealey is the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Buckingham. A former practitioner of clinical medicine, he lectured on clinical biochemistry at the University of Cambridge following the completion of his doctorate at the University of Oxford. He became Vice-Chancellor in 2001. His research interests include the cell biology of human skin diseases and the sociology and economics of science.

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