Abraham Flexner

"By investing in basic science, we are addressing all other issues. Think about the money we spend in defense or the money we have to spend in health care or education, you want to do it in a smart way. For instance, these days we...
IAS Faculty, Trustees, and Members participated in ICTS at Ten , a gathering to celebrate the unity of science, on January 4–7, at the International Centre for Theoretical Sciences campus in Bengaluru, India. The event featured half-hour talks by IAS Faculty and Members,...
Charles Kolb, a Senior Public Policy Executive and contributor for Huffington Post , writes of the realities of waning American innovation and productivity, along with the great decline of basic research funding. With reference to the Usefulness of Useless Knowledge (Princeton University Press, March...
“Perhaps the biggest fact of the last three hundred years of history is that life expectancy tripled in the West and in many other parts of the world. But it's not connected to one discovery or one battle being fought—it is a tremendous driver and...
What is "useless" knowledge? Can it ever become useful? And how can this approach to scientific research be applied further afield? To be really useful, it’s always a second order of fact. It’s always something that comes as a spin-off of your primary drive, which...
It's not only about sharing the products of science, but also the values of science—thinking longterm, thinking about both facts and the uncertainties, thinking in terms of reason. . . . If you think about the Space Race, it was wonderful to put a person...
If you look back at history, you see that large transformations in society, the really immense breakthroughs, they always came as a second order of fact—they were the spin-offs of fundamental enquiry, very deep thinking, which can only happen if you give researchers space and...
What is the best use of scientists’ time, energy, and grant funding? Should researchers investigate the fundamental nature of the universe…or cure cancer? Or is there a way to ensure that we can do both, even if financial support is harder to get? Click ...
John Timmer of Ars Technica reviews The Usefulness of Useless Knowledge (Princeton University Press, March 2017) by founding IAS Director Abraham Flexner with a companion essay by current IAS Director Robbert Dijkgraaf . Of the book, Timmer writes, "In it are...
Though it may seem far removed from the noise of the contemporary world, the Institute for Advanced Study (IAS) has a long history of combating threats to its scholars and their work. Recent executive orders by President Trump attempting to enforce travel bans and immigration...
"Flexner makes two points that seem to me particularly important right now, especially for policy makers thinking about higher education in the United States. One is that it is impossible to predict what research will turn out to be "useful" and therefore it’s foolish to...
“In some sense, the evidence of the usefulness of science is all around us,” Robbert Dijkgraaf said. “It’s in our back pockets, in our blood streams. We are governed by science—everybody is, even the people who aren’t supportive of it. But we are simply not...