Lewis M. Branscomb

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Lewis M. Branscomb

Lewis M. Branscomb (born August 17, 1926) is an American physicist and Professor emeritus of Public Policy and Corporate Management, in the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government.


  • While it is becoming increasingly obvious that the fundamental architecture of a system has a profound Influence on the quality of its human factors, the vast majority of human factors studies concern the surface of hardware (keyboards, screens) or the very surface of the software (command names, menu formats).
    • L.M. Branscomb, J.C. Thomas (1984) "Ease of use: a system design challenge". in: IBM Systems Journal. Vol 23.3, Sept 1984. Pages 224-235
  • Technology policy - whether we should have one and what form such a policy should take - was a core issue of the 1992 presidential campaign, and in February 1993 the Clinton administration confirmed that fostering new technologies will be a critical part of its agenda for redirecting the American economy.
    • L.M. Branscomb (1993) Empowering technology: Implementing a US policy
  • While political and cultural factors are important as explanations for differences in national technology policy and industrial practices, emergent trends in science, engineering and management are leading to new paradigms for high-technology innovation in both Japan and the United States.
    • Lewis M. Branscomb, Fumio Kodama (1993) Japanese innovation strategy: technical support for business visions
  • An exploration of the challenges Korea faces in transforming its economy from a government-directed, low-cost producer to an innovative world economic power based on its own scientific and technological development.
    • Lewis M. Branscomb, Young-Hwan Choi (1996) Korea at the turning point: innovation-based strategies for development
  • The progress of science still depends on "a few people of vision".
    • Lewis M. Branscomb (1997). Confessions of a technophile. Springer. p. 3. ISBN 1563961180. 
  • Shortly after taking office in 1993, President Bill Clinton and Vice President Al Gore called for a shift in American technology policy toward an expansion of public investments in partnerships with private industry.
    • L.M. Branscomb, J.H. Keller (1999) Investing in innovation: creating a research and innovation policy that works.
  • Scientists are used to debating with one another about the finer points of new research. But increasingly, they find themselves battling their televisions and computer screens, which transmit ever-more-heated rhetoric from politicians, pundits, and other public figures who misinterpret, misrepresent, and malign scientific results.

Integrity in Science (1985)

"Integrity in Science" (1985) reprinted in: Confessions of a Technophile (1994)
  • I believe that there are very few scientists who deliberately falsify their work, cheat on their colleagues, or steal from their students. On the other hand, I am afraid that a great many scientists deceive themselves from time to time in their treatment of data, gloss over problems involving systematic errors, or understate the contributions of others. These are the 'honest mistakes' of science. The scientific equivalent of the 'little white lie' of social discourse. The scientific community has no way to protect itself from sloppy or deceptive literature except to learn whose work is suspect as unreliable.
    • (1994, p. 44) cited in: Leonard Brand (1997) Faith, reason, and earth history
  • Teachers of science in schools and colleges must be masters of the tools for ensuring integrity in science and must instill them in their students.
    • (1994, p. 45)
  • We must understand that the fact of error, demonstrated in subsequent work, does not suggest that ethical lapses are responsible. It is more likely that the source of error is, as the advertisement says, a reflection of the fact that "its dangerous to trifle with Mother Nature".
    • (1994, p. 45)

Confessions of a Technophile (1994)

With reprints of essays "God loves the noise" (1980) and
  • I distinguish two kinds of "applied" research: problem-solving research — government or commercially initiated, centrally managed and institutionally coupled to a plan for application of the results, useful science — investigator-initiated, competitively evaluated and widely communicated. Then we have basic science — useful also, also investigator-initiated, competitively evaluated and widely communicated.
    • p. 31
  • God loves the noise as much as the signal.
    • p. 42: Quote inspired on Branscomb's 1980 essay "God loves the noise"
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