Choosing Big Technologies
Title: Choosing Big Technologies
Editor(s): KRIGE, John
Publisher: Harwood Academic
Citation: Chur/Philadelphia, Harwood Academic, 1993
The majority of the papers comprising this collection were prepared for a symposium held at the European University Institute (EUI) in Florence in November 1991.1 The symposium's main, and more or less explicit aim, was to draw comparisons between the decisionmaking processes leading to the choice of big technologies in the public sector. This was to be done along three axes. Firstly, there was the technology itself. To this end papers were solicited dealing with four different domains — space, highenergy physics, aerospace and nuclear physics. About half of the papers dealt with space. This partly reflected personal interests. The present author, who is based at the EUI, along with Michelangelo De Maria and Arturo Russo, have recently undertaken to write the history of the European Space Agency (ESA). It was also because ESA and the European University Institute were the joint sponsors of the meeting. The second hoped-for comparative axis was geographical/political. Speakers were invited from the United States, from Western Europe, from Japan and from Russia (the latter finally being unable to attend). Thirdly, an attempt was made to mix academic researchers with policy makers, industrial consultants, and scientists and engineers. In the event while the bulk — though by no means all — of the speakers were scholars in the field, about 40% of the audience were not in this category. The aim of this preface is neither to provide some general overview of the factors shaping the choice of big technologies — a perilous undertaking given the heterogeneity of such technologies and the contexts in which they are "chosen"—, nor to try to introduce individually the papers presented in this collection — an enterprise which is usually rather forced and of dubious intellectual merit. Instead it is a personal — and so biassed by our own knowledge and research interests — attempt to identify some of the themes that frequently emerged at the conference. We do not pretend to have been exhaustive, nor to have done justice to the richness of the individual contributions.2 Our aim is the more modest one of orientation, of using the themes as markers to guide the reader into the papers presented here. One common characteristic of the technologies discussed at the meeting was that they were big in the physical sense, and that they have grown in size, power and cost over time. The first nuclear particle accelerator built by Lawrence at the Radiation Laboratory in Berkeley in the early 1930s could fit in one's hand. Before the decade was out he had raised funds to build a machine whose magnet weighed several thousand tons. The postwar generation of machines has continued the trend. The linear accelerator at Stanford is two miles long. CERN's most recently commissioned electron-positron ring has a circumference of 27km. And what is true for high-energy physics is true for satellites, for launchers, for aircraft. These technologies have reached higher energies, weigh more, can carry greater payloads, and go faster than their predecessors.
Table of Contents:
--Preface vii --List of Contributors xiii --The Rise and Fall of ESRO's First Major Scientific Project, the Large Astronomical Satellite (LAS)/John Krige 1 --Choosing Big Projects in Space Research: The Case of ESRO's Scientific Satellite COS-B1/Arturo Russo 27 --The Conjunction of Political, Institutional and Industrial Issues in the Choice of Experimental Communication Satellites in Europe, Compared to the USA and Japan/Marc Giget 63 --Space Communications in Europe. How Did We Make It Happen?/Rene Collette 83 --Making Big Technology Serve the User: U.S. Remote Sensing Programs/Pamela E. Mack 95 --Early European Attempts in Launcher Technology: Original Sins in ELDO's Sad Parable/Michelangelo De Maria and John Krige 109 --Choosing Big Technologies: Examples from the U.S. Space Program/John M. Logsdon 139 --Understanding Japanese Technological Decision-Making: The Case of Space Policy/Joan Johnson-Freese 151 --The Decision-Making Processes for the Main Particle Accelerators Built Throughout the World from the 1930s to the 1970s/Dominique Pestre 175 --Technology Choice in Early High-Energy Physics/Robert W. Seidel 189 --The Back-End of the Nuclear Fuel-Cycle/William Walker 203 --Civil and Military Aircraft in the UK/Philip Gummett 223 --Choosing Big Technologies: The Core Issues/Roger Williams 235 --Index
Papers prepared for a symposium held at the European University Institute, Florence, November 1991. The articles appearing in this book were first published in Volume 9, Numbers 1-4 of the journal of History and Technology.