I have always thought that physicists, and scientists in general, should make a stronger effort to make evident their importance in economic terms. Even if we are talking about basic science, there is always a long-term benefit that can be estimated in numbers. It’s very useful to show such unambiguous numbers to the rest of society, to remember them once again the importance of science.
In this context, I just read the report “The Importance of Physics to the Irish Economy” that presents the analysis by Deloitte of “the impact of sectors that are critically dependent on the supply of new physics research and physics-trained people”.
It is quite interesting. Let me just put here a couple of points that caught my eye:
- “Direct employment in physics-based sectors is comparable to that of all of the finance, banking and insurance sectors combined”;
- “The jobs in physics-based sectors are significantly more productive than the national average (…). And these sectors have shown resilience in the face of the economic downturn”;
- “More than 60% of direct jobs in physics-based sectors found in manufacturing related activities”;
- “Ireland is Intel’s centre of manufacturing excellence in Europe. (…) Physicists and physics-trained people are critically important in the design, manufacture and operations of semiconductor equipment”.
It seems that Deloitte has also produced equivalent reports for the economies of Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and the United Kingdom (available at the IOP website). I’ll take a look and I might update this post with more details.
It’d be quite a smart move by some research centers to get a similar analysis done. That way they could show that the public money they were given has been returned to the society multiplied by whatever factor. It would make the life of some ignorant politicians a bit harder.