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Coming pieces from the Engineering Innovation Substack
And a piece you might love that you probably missed
It has been about three weeks since the last piece for the Engineering Innovation Substack. I apologize for the delay, but I think the delay will be worth it.
I’ve been working on a series of (at least) three pieces that serve as a bit of a (short) progress studies history of MIT. This is a set of pieces that I specifically had in mind when I started this newsletter and I’m extremely excited to have the opportunity to share them with you all. The delay has been because I’ve had to work on the research stages of all three pieces at once to ensure continuity between them.
By the end of July, all three pieces will be released, with the first coming out later next week. The three pieces will largely detail:
The vital, differentiated training that early MIT provided its engineers
MIT as an applied science powerhouse in the early 1900s
And the beginnings of MIT’s transition from something of a research-oriented technical school to the university we know it as today
I’ll outline how each of these played a role in helping America in an era of explosive growth/building and explore what lessons we can learn from the early success and changing policies of MIT when it was a young and scrappy startup school.
For those who are eager for more content in the meantime, I’d recommend reading a piece I wrote in February, Is America’s applied and basic research really “applied” or “basic”?, my second piece for the Substack. It was written back when the substack had few followers and I believe most subscribers have not read it.
The piece was inspired by a statistic from Li et. al that many believed to be a good thing, but I took to be evidence that something may have gone awry with our research ecosystem. Namely, the likelihood of being cited in a patent for applied and basic NIH-funded research was remarkably similar, even in the short run. Many on Twitter seemed to take this as a victory for the usefulness of basic research. And, while I love basic research, I’m not sure that’s the best interpretation of that fact pattern. In the short run at least, basic research is, in many cases, supposed to underperform applied research in terms of patenting. The ROI of basic has generally been intended as something that should accrue over the long term and might not even show up very well in the data.
This statistic led me to believe that either our applied research is not so applied, our basic research is not so exploratory, or both. Dive into the piece to read more!
Thanks so much for reading and engaging! As always, please reach out with any ideas for new pieces or questions you have for me!