LETTER : Making money from science

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From Mr John Henderson

Sir: Your leading article "Science and apple pie" (20 March) makes the classic error of confusing science, engineering and technology. What the economy needs, and what our more successful economical rivals have got, is the technology to design effective products and the engineering to produce them reliably at a price people can afford.

The efforts of the British Association for the Advancement of Science seems to be to improve the image of science for the declared aim of increasing investment in basic research, by using the products of technology and engineering as examples.

Any lead the UK might ever have had in computing, for example, is long gone; the rewards have gone to entrepreneurial engineers in America and Japan who have developed products that are not "scientifically advanced", but are well engineered and use well-understood technologies. None of the current successes in information technology are innovative, but are a result of the availability of cheap and reliable hardware that has allowed a vast increase in the user population.

Proof, if it is needed, that there's nothing much new is provided by your article on the still effective use of refurbished IBM PCs that are 10 years old ("Long in the tooth, but lots of byte" Network, 20 March).

The cause of science, engineering and technology would be better served if its case were made on a scientific analysis, not on the basis of unsubstantiated assertions.

Yours sincerely,




20 March