June 26, 2022
How much does a theory cost?  And why is it so cheap?  - 05/01/2022 - Basic Sciences

How much does a theory cost? And why is it so cheap? – 05/01/2022 – Basic Sciences

A professional mathematician can perform the most diverse activities. From international competitive research to work in industry or public administration sectors. Then two questions arise: How much does a professional mathematician cost? Is it worth paying for?

This discussion was born out of the primary motivation of those who follow mathematical questions. In general, mathematics is not interested in being useful or applicable. She just is. Theory, Pollock’s painting, Besa Lewis’ novel or Zanussi’s movie: When Naderashvili and Vladot used non-associative algebra in the study of differential equations, it’s like Goddard’s farewell to three-dimensional language.

The problem is that in a democratic society it is necessary to justify the cost of this intellectual adventure. Mainly because that same community accepts payment for it.

Let’s keep things simple and imagine that a professional mathematician has a Ph.D. in this field. Thus, the cost of producing a professional is related to the cost of training a physician. We can determine this cost with a scholarship; Currently, looking at the main national development agencies (such as CNPq and CAPES), we are talking about 2,200 riyals per month, for four years. Therefore, the total cost of producing the doctor will be 105,600 riyals.

Once formed, this professional begins his activities. Unlike many basic and life sciences, mathematics has very cheap inputs: pencil, paper, and navigation. Easy-to-understand pencil and paper. But what about mobility?

It’s simple: a mathematician’s job involves discussing questions, problems, and ideas. It involves listening to what colleagues have in mind, absorbing perspectives and, in many cases, understanding why some research directions are more exciting than others. The most effective way to perform this exchange is rotation. Visit colleagues abroad, bring staff to the country, and participate in meetings in the region.

The cost of pencil and paper, let’s ignore it. But the cost of transportation is important. Within a year, it is reasonable to assume that the mathematician makes two visits abroad and receives two colleagues in Brazil. In addition to participating in two international conferences. In this scenario (which I admit is a bit schematic), given a cost of 15,000 OMR per offset, we’re talking about 90,000 OMR per year.

Needless to say, a professional produces, on average, one theory per year (again, simplifying many things). If the price of the theory is the cost of training a professional plus the cost of his work, then it is easy to conclude: we calculate 200 thousand riyals. very little? very? To tell you the truth, it’s a bargain.

In 2013, a study by the British Physical Sciences and Engineering Research Council (EPSRC) examined the impact of mathematics research on the UK economy. the study She identified three main cases of mathematics’ impact on the productive field: data analysis, security, and uncertainty handling. Manifestations of industry mathematics have unfolded in sectors such as manufacturing, retail, telecommunications, health, pharmaceuticals, transportation, logistics, and public administration.

But the most intriguing thing is not the different areas of the so-called “real life” in which mathematics emerges. What stands out in this study are the numbers. In particular, the number of jobs created and the value added to the economy.

In 2010, research in mathematics in the UK was found to have generated more than 300,000 direct jobs. In the public administration, including the defense sector, there were more than 200 thousand direct jobs.

It is self-evident, but positively surprising, that there are more than 700,000 jobs due to mathematics in the hotel sector, food and … bars! Overall, looking back at just 2010, it turns out that nearly 10 million jobs were due to math.

And this is all without regard to the added value, whose numbers are in the stratosphere. In 2010 research in mathematics amounted to £556 billion in value added to the UK economy – about 40% of the total. Of this amount, 208 billion are directly related to mathematics and originate in sectors such as banking and financial services, computing, civil construction, public administration and defense.

Whether it is for the simple development of the soul, for its effect on the modernization of society or for its effect on economic life, mathematics is a subject of national interest. In its defense is the fact that the theory has one of the best cost-benefit ratios in the world.


Edgard Pimentel is a researcher at the Mathematics Center at the University of Coimbra and a professor at PUC-Rio University.

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