Monday, July 13, 2009

The Importance of Basic Research

M.C. Escher, Drawing Hands (1948)
"Basic research is performed without thought of practical ends. It results in general knowledge and an understanding of nature and its laws. This general knowledge provides the means of answering a large number of important practical problems, though it may not give a complete specific answer to any one of them. The function of applied research is to provide such complete answers. The scientist doing basic research may not be at all interested in the practical applications of his work, yet the further progress of industrial development would eventually stagnate if basic scientific research were long neglected."

If we don't support/encourage/fund basic research, we cannot innovate. Research and innovation are a loop wherein one cannot exist without the other. Yet innovation is rewarded and basic research is not. This means there is little incentive to support basic research.

So who should fund the basic research? The government? Industry? Private citizens?

And who should get paid for the discoveries that come of basic research? Those who did the applied research? The group that paid for the patent? Basic researchers? Taxpayers?

Discussion is open in the comments section ...

This is Part 3 in our ongoing discussion of Science the Endless Frontier.
Part 1 - Introduction
Part 2 - Flowing Scientific Knowledge
Part 3 - The Importance of Basic Research
Part 4 - The Need for Federal Support for Research

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