Monday, October 26, 2009

Useless Research

I was reading an article today that touched a specific nerve on the funding of "useless" research which I found linked at the The original article is in the Timesonline.UK and deals with the idea of creating a committee to review science projects based on economic value which is a STUPID idea. This touches home because several people have asked me what good my research is for or what will come of it and honestly right now there is nothing that will "come out" of my research that would be of any economic value. Chickadees aren't rare, this technology won't cure any disease, won't make any profit for Apple/Sony/Walmart etc..... but people really need to think about this. The idea that research has to have value beyond knowledge or some sort of profit/economic purpose is relatively new yet has permeated most of popular society. One of the commenteres at made a great point and referenced Carl Sagan's Demon Haunted World (which is a great read btw):

"I think more people need to read Sagan's Demon Haunted World. He dedicates a whole chapter on exactly this subject, using an allegory in which the queen ordered Sir Maxwell to stop doing his useless research on electromagenetism but in stead build a device that can transmit pictures over distance... point being of course, that with Maxwell's research into magnetism, there wouldn't be TV, radio, fancy electronic devices, etc.

This is exactly the same thing. Look at what NASA and ESA have given to the world without every thinking about the economic impact: MRI, networking systems, teflon, fancy polymers, etc. None of that would have existed because the research that led to these fruits of science would have deemed unworthy
. "

Cited in the above Times article: "Over 200 chemists, physists and medics say the measures will mean universities will lack the cash to fund academics to undertake the kind of “blue-sky thinking” that led to the discovery of DNA, X-rays and penicillin."

I thought about looking up some more things that were discovered during the pursuit of "useless" knowledge but then realized there are probably way too many.... and I have work to do.

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