Science policy is an area of public policy concerned with the policies that affect the conduct of the scientific enterprise, including research funding, often in pursuance of other national policy goals such as technological innovation to promote commercial product development, weapons development, health care and environmental monitoring.
Science policy also refers to the act of applying scientific knowledge and consensus to the development of public policies. Science policy thus deals with the entire domain of issues that involve the natural sciences.
In accordance with public policy being concerned about the well-being of its citizens, science policy's goal is to consider how science and technology can best serve the public.
State policy has influenced the funding of public works and science for thousands of years, dating at least from the time of the Mohists, who inspired the study of logic during the period of the Hundred Schools of Thought, and the study of defensive fortifications during the Warring States period in China.
In Great Britain, governmental approval of the Royal Society in the 17th century recognized a scientific community which exists to this day.
The professionalization of science, begun in the 19th century, was partly enabled by the creation of scientific organizations such as the National Academy of Sciences, the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute, and State funding of universities of their respective nations.
Public policy can directly affect the funding of capital equipment, intellectual infrastructure for industrial research, by providing tax incentives to those organizations that fund research.
Vannevar Bush, director of the office of scientific research and development for the United States government, the forerunner of the National Science Foundation, wrote in July 1945 that "Science is a proper concern of government"
Science and technology research is often funded through a competitive process, in which potential research projects are evaluated and only the most promising receive funding.
Such processes, which are run by government, corporations or foundations, allocate scarce funds.
Total research funding in most developed countries is between 1.5% and 3% of GDP.
In the OECD, around two-thirds of research and development in scientific and technical fields is carried out by industry, and 20% and 10% respectively by universities and government.
The government funding proportion in certain industries is higher, and it dominates research in social science and humanities.
Similarly, with some exceptions (e.g. biotechnology) government provides the bulk of the funds for basic scientific research. In commercial research and development, all but the most research-oriented corporations focus more heavily on near-term commercialisation possibilities rather than "blue-sky" ideas or technologies (such as nuclear fusion).