I have a paper published online-first by BSHM Bulletin: Journal of the British Society for the History of Mathematics. This means it is online and will be in an upcoming issue.
‘The unplanned impact of mathematics’ refers to mathematics which has an impact that was not planned by its originator, either as pure maths that finds an application or applied maths that finds an unexpected one. This aspect of mathematics has serious implications when increasingly researchers are asked to predict the impact of their research before it is funded and research quality is measured partly by its short term impact.
A session on this topic has been used in a UK undergraduate mathematics module that aims to consider topics in the history of mathematics and examine how maths interacts with wider society. First, this introduced the ‘unplanned impact’ concept through historical examples. Second, it provoked discussion of the concept through a fictionalized blog comments discussion thread giving different views on the development and utility of mathematics. Finally, a mock research funding activity encouraged a pragmatic view of how research funding is planned and funded.
The unplanned impact concept and the structure and content of the taught session are described.
Rowlett, P., 2015? ‘The unplanned impact of mathematics’ and its implications for research funding: a discussion-led educational activity. BSHM Bulletin: Journal of the British Society for the History of Mathematics. DOI: 10.1080/17498430.2014.945136.