UCL Department of Science, Technology, Engineering and Public Policy


STEaPP Seminar Series - Cycles of Invention and Discovery: Rethinking the Endless Frontier 

03 May 2017, 3:30 pm–5:00 pm

Cycles of Invention and Discovery

Event Information

Open to



Malet Place, Engineering Building 1.02

Professors Venkatesh Narayanamurti (Harvard) and Tolu Odumosu (Virginia) discuss their book, Cycles of Invention and Discovery, and reflect upon a number of pressing challenges to research funding, institutions, infrastructure and culture in the United States. 

Cycles of Invention and Discovery offers an in-depth look at the real-world practice of science and engineering. It shows how the standard categories of "basic" and "applied" have become a hindrance to the organization of the U.S. science and technology enterprise. Tracing the history of these problematic categories, Venkatesh Narayanamurti and Toluwalogo Odumosu document how historical views of policy makers and scientists have led to the construction of science as a pure ideal on the one hand and of engineering as a practical (and inherently less prestigious) activity on the other. Even today, this erroneous but still widespread distinction forces these two endeavors into separate silos, misdirects billions of dollars, and thwarts progress in science and engineering research.

The authors contrast this outmoded perspective with the lived experiences of researchers at major research laboratories. Using such Nobel Prize-winning examples as magnetic resonance imaging, the transistor, and the laser, they explore the daily micro-practices of research, showing how distinctions between the search for knowledge and creative problem solving break down when one pays attention to the ways in which pathbreaking research actually happens. By studying key contemporary research institutions, the authors highlight the importance of integrated research practices, contrasting these with models of research in the classic but still-influential report Science the Endless Frontier. Narayanamurti and Odumosu's new model of the research ecosystem underscores that discovery and invention are often two sides of the same coin that moves innovation forward.

Professor Venkatesh Narayanamurti 

Venkatesh Narayanmurti

Venkatesh Narayanamurti is the Benjamin Peirce Research Professor of Technology and Public Policy at Harvard. He has served on numerous advisory boards of the federal government, research universities and industry.  He was formerly the John L. Armstrong Professor and Founding Dean of the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, Professor of Physics and Dean of Physical Sciences at Harvard. He is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and an elected member of the U.S National Academy of Engineering and of the Royal Swedish Academy of Engineering Sciences.

Professor Tolu Odumosu 

Toluwalogo Odumosu

Toluwalogo 'Tolu' Odumosu is Assistant Professor of Science, Technology and Society and Assistant Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering in the School of Engineering and Applied Science at the University of Virginia. 

He also holds a Research Associate position at Harvard University. He heads the Digital Privacy Research Laboratory in the Department of Engineering and Society at the University of Virginia.

Event details

  • Date: 3 May 2017
  • Time: 15.30-17.00
  • Location: Malet Place, Engineering Building 1.02

Register your attendance on Eventbrite

STEaPP Seminar Series

The STEaPP Seminar Series aims to share knowledge from within UCL STEaPP, and from across and outside UCL that is particularly relevant to UCL STEaPP research and teaching communities. 

We aim to showcase speakers across a variety of fields, and from both academic research and practice. The series is a platform for connecting with key figures in research and practice, stimulating research discussion, developing collaborations, improving education practice and linking education to research.  

For details of future STEaPP departmental seminars please contact Dr Carolin Kaltofen.