Continuing the discussion from Discussion of Big Science Today, by an Important Member of the National Association of Scholars:
We got sidetracked before I could point out this interesting item from the extended Heritage Foundation report by Turner, in which he bemoans the insidious influence of Big Science.
" To illustrate, let me invite participation in a thought experiment. Make a list of three transformative scientific achievements of the Big Science era. Here is my list: (1) the physics of semiconductors leading to the invention of the transistor79; (2) the polymerase chain reaction (PCR), which has led to efficient and rapid DNA sequencing80; and (3) Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats (CRISPR),81 which supports new gene-editing technology that presents great promise (and peril) for modifying genes in living organisms.82
Of my three examples, two (the invention of the transistor and the polymerase chain reaction) were products of private sector research (Bell Labs and Cetus Pharmaceuticals, respectively). Both innovations were driven by rebel scientists. William Shockley at Bell Labs, who was central to the invention of the transistor, was a brilliant, if unconventional physicist.83. Kary Mullis, who invented the polymerase chain reaction, was a biochemist who, prior to joining Cetus, had had a checkered career that involved, among other things, stints as a novelist, surf bum, and manager of a bakery. Both Shockley and Mullis drifted in and out of institutionalized science. Yet, both rank high among the greatest creative geniuses of the Big Science era. Both were Nobel Prize winners, and neither depended on the Big Science cartel for their discoveries and success.84 Neither would have found a congenial home in today’s universities.
My third example, CRISPR, has roots more firmly embedded in academic science. The two scientists who discovered CRISPR, Francisco Mojica, from Spain, and Yoshizima Ishino, from Japan, were not looking for a gene-editing method. They were trying to understand something entirely unrelated: bacterial immunity. The gene-editing method CRISPR would not have happened without Mojica’s and Ishino’s serendipitous discovery. Does the politicized American university have a place for serendipity? It is a good question, but one with no certain answer."