Nature 463, 157 (14 January 2010) | doi:10.1038/463157d; Published online 13 January 2010

To make progress we must remember and learn from the past

Bart Penders1, Niki Vermeulen2 & John N. Parker3

  1. Radboud University Nijmegen, Centre for Society and Genomics, 6500 GL Nijmegen, the Netherlands
  2. Department of Social Studies of Science, University of Vienna, Vienna, Austria
  3. National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis, Santa Barbara, California 93101, USA

Indira Samarasekera calls for more effective collaboration among universities, governments and the private sector in her Opinion article (Nature 462, 160–161; 2009). Her arguments are not new — they have been central to research policy and sociology of science debates for more than 60 years (see, for example, V. Bush Science: The Endless Frontier US Office of Scientific Research and Development; 1945).

Today's tools for efficient literature searches are on hand to prevent old debates from continually resurfacing. Keeping track of developing ideas by conscientious referencing is essential. Then, to act upon what has been learned, we must remember. As scientists, we remember collectively through cited publications.

This particular debate is important because it challenges the very core of science by discussing how and why knowledge is made, used and mobilized. We should be drawing on the valuable insights from previous decades in our attempts to set a new social contract for science.

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