slideshare ppt on research

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Introduction To Basic research

Basic research is often thought to produce a certain type of knowledge, and a distinction is
labelled ‘epistemological’ when it refers to the properties and/or the nature of the knowledge
basic research is said to produce. There are several sub-categories of this epistemological
distinction – unpredictability, generality, theory and reductionism.
Unpredictable/novel research
In interviews, both scientists and policy makers distinguished basic research in terms of its
unpredictability or novelty. According to a UK physicist, in basic research “what you’re trying to
do is find a new concept or push the boundaries of existing knowledge”. Unpredictability of this
kind can lead to truly novel outcomes; for example, a UK policy maker observed that “the word
processor didn’t come about through research on a quill pen”.3
Some interviewees, however, disagreed with this definition of basic research as unpredictable or
novel research (a reminder that it is difficult to formulate a finalised definition of basic research).
They talked instead of conservatism in the research agenda, which discourages spectacular novel
outcomes. Indeed, a US biologist described scientific methodology as being inherently
predictable, in that it puts forward hypotheses which predict certain outcomes. Similarly Ziman
(1998) argues that much research, such as astronomical research, can be very mundane and
predictable because its results are dependent on routine, repetitive observations. One biologist
from the UK described the Human Genome Mapping Project as “quite predictable and dreadfully
boring”. He went on to assert that funding agencies liked it precisely because of its
According to some definitions, research is ‘basic’ if it is general rather than specific. General
research refers to research done at such a ‘level’ that it applies to a wide range of instances or
phenomena, whereas applied research will help solve the particular problem being investigated
but little else. A UK biologist suggested that the generality of basic research provided an overall
vision and an ability to connect disparate pieces of information.
As with the definition in terms of unpredictability, there were some critics of the idea that
generality is the defining characteristic of basic research. A US molecular biologist said she
thought that basic research was actually specific research because in her field it involved working
out how a specific gene functioned and hence it became difficult to generalise this to the level of
the organism.