slideshare ppt on research

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Baic research as an ideal

A point that must not be overlooked in any analysis of the concept basic research is the
importance of the ideal of basic research to scientists. Many of those interviewed would describe
basic research as autonomous and driven purely by curiosity when defining it in the abstract, but
when they came to describe their own research in practice they often described it rather
differently.
For example, although there was a strong definitional emphasis on curiosity in basic research, in
discussing their own research several scientists demonstrated that they were motivated by much
more pragmatic aims. A US biologist said, “I like seeing the fruit of the research and what it
means to society”, and a UK biologist described how curiosity, ambition, peer approval, a desire
to serve humanity and his enjoyment of conferences in attractive locations all motivated him in
his scientific work. Many of those scientists who present an idealized image of science as the
unadulterated quest for greater understanding do not describe their own work in this manner.
There was a similar ‘idealizing’ in the case of autonomy. Some scientists described themselves
as autonomous researchers as one might expect. A UK policy maker said that the kind of people
attracted into academic research in the first place are those who like a “free-ranging life”. Many
scientists, however, would initially say they had complete autonomy in their work and then go
on, when considering grant applications, for example, to admit that in reality they did not have so
much. One UK physicist summarized this in one sentence; “in principle I have autonomy, in
practice there’s quite a lot of constraints”. It is this ‘in principle’ that is interesting here. ‘In
principle’ refers to the idealized image of what basic scientific work comprises. Again it seems
to be important for scientists to maintain that they do, in some respects, have autonomy, even
while at the same time admitting that, when it comes to obtaining funds, this autonomy is often
restricted.