The relationship between science and technology

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Citation: Harvey Brooks (1994) The relationship between science and technology. Research Policy (RSS)
DOI (original publisher): 10.1016/0048-7333(94)01001-3
Semantic Scholar (metadata): 10.1016/0048-7333(94)01001-3
Sci-Hub (fulltext): 10.1016/0048-7333(94)01001-3
Internet Archive Scholar (search for fulltext): The relationship between science and technology
Tagged: Political Science "Political Science" is not in the list (Anthropology, Arts and Literarure, Astronomy, Biology, Business, Chemistry, Clinical Research, Computer Science, Economics, Education, ...) of allowed values for the "Subject" property. (RSS) Innovation (RSS), Science (RSS), STS (RSS)


Brooks' article is a high-level review that attempts to lay out the complicated relationship between science and technology. Although almost impossible broad in scope, the article does a surprisingly good job that conveys both the depth necessary to treat the subject well and effective use of examples that go into enough specifics and examples to convey his points.

He argues that science contributed to technology in six ways:

  1. Direct source of new technological ideas where archetypal ideas might be the atomic bomb or X-Rays.
  2. A source of engineering design tools and techniques in ways that might be more common in more engineering-focused scientific investigations.
  3. Instrumentation, laboratory techniques, and analytical methods which includes techniques and other innovation created in the process of doing science and where scientists act as sorts of lead users creating new technologists in order to investigate questions that were otherwise not possible.
  4. Development of human skills through training students in technologies and scientific techniques and methods.
  5. Technology assessment that might look at the side effects of technologies like chemical waste and measurement of side effects.
  6. Source of development strategy that might help scientists avoid blind alleys.

Additionally, he argues that technology contributes to science in two ways:

  1. Source of new challenges as has been the case in material science which are driven by technological research.
  2. Instrumentation and measurement techniques where technologists create tools that end up being useful to science more generally and so that scientists don't have to create all their own tools or focus on the parts of tool creation that they are less good at.

Harvey Brooks was the dean of the Harvard Division of Engineering and Applied Sciences for nearly 20 years (1957-1976) before founding the center for Science, Technology and Public Policy at the Kennedy School in 1976. This paper was published more than 10 years after his retirement.

Theoretical and Practical Relevance

The paper is a "semi-famous" paper and is more of a review article than an empirical piece but plays an important role in framing questions around science policy and has been cited by others exploring the relationship or making policy claims about the promotion of science for public policy reasons.