Waypoints for Evaluating Big Science

SOCIAL SCIENCE QUARTERLY

William T. Bianco, Donald Gerhart, Sean Nicholson-Crotty
Publication Date
2017
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As illustrated by the articles in this volume, there are considerable gaps in the measurement of research productivity/innovation for programs enabled by large initial and ongoing infrastructure investments. Such programs include NASA's International Space Station, DOE's National Ignition Facility, NSF's Polar Program, and CERN's Large Hadron Collider. The enormous sums spent on these projects are often justified by predictions about their contributions to knowledge, the economy, or innovation. But at virtually any point in the lifecycle of a Big Science program, it is not easy to explain to the public, elected officials, and scientists whose proposals were rejected why the program is a compelling investment, given that all of the aforementioned benefits will emerge only over time—if at all.