What is Basic Research?
Basic (aka fundamental or pure) research is driven by a scientist’s curiosity or interest in a scientific question. The main motivation is to expand man’s knowledge, not to create or invent something. There is no obvious commercial value to the discoveries that result from basic research.
For example, basic science investigations probe for answers to questions such as:
• How did the universe begin?
• What are protons, neutrons, and electrons composed of?
• How do slime molds reproduce?
• What is the specific genetic code of the fruit fly?
Most scientists believe that a basic, fundamental understanding of all branches of science is needed in order for progress to take place. In other words, basic research lays down the foundation for the applied science that follows. If basic work is done first, then applied spin-offs often eventually result from this research.
What is Applied Research?
Applied research is designed to solve practical problems of the modern world, rather than to acquire knowledge for knowledge’s sake. One might say that the goal of the applied scientist is to improve the human condition.
For example, applied researchers may investigate ways to:
• improve agricultural crop production
• treat or cure a specific disease
• improve the energy efficiency of homes, offices, or modes of transportation
Some scientists feel that the time has come for a shift in emphasis away from purely basic research and toward applied science. This trend, they feel, is necessitated by the problems resulting from global overpopulation, pollution, and the overuse of the earth’s natural resources.
(www.lbl.gov/Education/ELSI/research-main.html, access on Aug. 17, 2007)
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