One of the main roles of an innovation manager is to define the set of policies that will drive the innovation process in an organization. When innovation is supported by research a scientific policy must be defined.
It is very important to notice the difference between policy and politics. Policy is related to guidelines; however, politics would be a set of activities associated to the governance of the organization that, of course, usually includes a set of guidelines but it is much more than this.
Why is so important this differentiation, especially in this case? Well, science and politics are usually two very different activities especially in a democratic country. In fact, politics is necessary to provide solutions only where science cannot provide one. When science can provide optimal solutions for a problem there is not a need to agree. There is only a need to command the process in an optimal way. When a political idea is considered an absolute truth in the scientific sense, politicians act establishing a chain of command planning the activities of the people in order to reach some social objective. This is the way as the bad named “scientific socialism” drove to totalitarian regimes. The dictatorship of the proletariat (that is really the dictatorship of a political class) makes itself permanent and any “communist paradise” can never be reached.
Politics has two common aspects organization for execution of policies and the definition of the policies through agreements. The classic democracy was built through the separation of this task between the executive and the legislative powers. Democracy introduced an additional separation avoiding the self-control of the executive power with the separation of the judicial one from it. The capability of a democratic system to change the government avoids in theory the formation of a dictatorship by a certain political party, although there is always a natural trend to provide one as the role of the executive power is to establish a structure of command to develop the policies defined by the legislative and executive powers.
Any kind of political party on the left or on the right side, would act always as a “scientific socialist” when it is in the government because every political party thinks that its vision of the social reality is an absolute truth and the other parties are wrong. Democracy is never provided by a political ideology and it is not a patrimony of a certain political ideology, but it is provided through the separation of powers by the political system itself, and a mechanism of regeneration through a proper electoral process.
On the other hand, science is not democratic, scientific truths cannot be got through agreements. We can agree that tomorrow the sun will rise from the west, but science shows us that with a very high probability the sun will rise from the east. There are human activities that are much more effective driven through a not democratic scheme. Bertrand Russell though that the best way of governance is the classic aristocracy (the government of the best) however it is not possible to know which is the best group of rulers. Who should be the rulers? The most intelligent? The most beautiful? The strongest? As it is not possible to define the best group of rulers Russell justified the use of democracy as the less bad way of governance.
Science and technology are activities that provide better results when they are driven through merit instead of collusion however pure science is not the main support to a society. Science is an activity linked to other ones if it must be a solution provider for the social challenges. It is here where innovation management provides new value, a separation of the scientific execution, the definition of the scientific policies and the control of scientific execution can provide best results for every organization. The old problem of who must rule science appears again. Who must rule science? The best scientist? The best technologists? The best economists? The best managers?
In this case I think that the scientific and technological execution should be driven by the best scientists and technologists, however, other group of people should be considered to define policies and to control the activity of the scientific and technological development. The definition of the scientific and technological strategy can take advantage of the knowledge of different groups of people. To consider scientific activities equal to politics is as bad as to consider political activities equal to science, however, a democratic-like viewpoint can be useful to improve science and technology management if we do not forget that democracy is provided by the separation of powers and managing activities, and a proper way of regeneration. This latter aspect is very important in science because science advances when a new scientific truth displaces the most commonly accepted one that usually has a strong trend to persist.
This democratic-like scheme can be useful for complex organizations with scientific and technological activities very linked to other aspects of the organization and the environment. However, other classic organizational models can fit certain scientific organizations. For instance, fundamental science could be well driven enough by merit because it usually is more isolated from the environment.