Now the following awesome piece of news appeared in my feed: the Times Higher Education reports that Helga Nowotny, president of the European Research Council, spoke at a conference in Brussels last week marking the fifth anniversary of the ERC's creation. She said in her address that the ERC, contrary to many national funding bodies, will not adopt an impact agenda, and will not require applicants to quantify their potential research outcome in terms that would please economists or politicians.
Nowtony acknowledged the tension between the need to take risks to make headway in fundamental research, and the - understandable - aversion to risk of policymakers and their "demands... for practical innovation, seen as the undisputed motor of...economic growth". But she stood by her principles:
"One answer is to target resources... to look to strategic sectors, to put science to work on the most pressing problems. It all looks so easy, so obvious. But frontier science does not work like this. We cannot programme scientific breakthroughs or order them from a menu... We can't foresee the consequences of what we discover."
It is noteworthy that Nowotny is an emeritus professor of the social studies of science at ETH Zürich. I am very sure that her opinion is backed up by science rather than based on personal belief.
She said it so well, the only thing I can add is "Bravo!"