Basic research

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Basic research, also called pure research or fundamental research, is a type of scientific research with the aim of improving scientific theories for better understanding and prediction of natural or other phenomena. [1] In contrast, applied research uses scientific theories to develop technology or techniques which can be used to intervene and alter natural or other phenomena. Though often driven simply by curiosity, [2] basic research often fuels the technological innovations of applied science. [3] The two aims are often practiced simultaneously in coordinated research and development.


In addition to innovations, basic research also serves to provide insight into nature around us and allows us to respect its innate value. [4] The development of this respect is what drives conservation efforts. Through learning about the environment, conservation efforts can be strengthened using research as a basis. [5] Technological innovations can unintentionally be created through this as well, as seen with examples such as kingfishers' beaks affecting the design for high speed bullet train in Japan. [6]


Despite smart people working on this problem for 50 years, we're still discovering surprisingly basic things about the earliest history of our world. It's quite humbling. Matija Ćuk, scientist at the SETI Institute and lead researcher, November 2016 [7]

Basic research advances fundamental knowledge about the world. It focuses on creating and refuting or supporting theories that explain observed phenomena. Pure research is the source of most new scientific ideas and ways of thinking about the world. It can be exploratory, descriptive, or explanatory; however, explanatory research is the most common.[ citation needed ]

Basic research generates new ideas, principles, and theories, which may not be immediately utilized but nonetheless form the basis of progress and development in different fields. Today's computers, for example, could not exist without research in pure mathematics conducted over a century ago, for which there was no known practical application at the time. Basic research rarely helps practitioners directly with their everyday concerns; nevertheless, it stimulates new ways of thinking that have the potential to revolutionize and dramatically improve how practitioners deal with a problem in the future.[ citation needed ]

By country

In the United States, basic research is funded mainly by federal government and done mainly at universities and institutes. [8] As government funding has diminished in the 2010s, however, private funding is increasingly important. [9]

Basic versus applied science

Applied science focuses on the development of technology and techniques. In contrast, basic science develops scientific knowledge and predictions, principally in natural sciences but also in other empirical sciences, which are used as the scientific foundation for applied science. Basic science develops and establishes information to predict phenomena and perhaps to understand nature, whereas applied science uses portions of basic science to develop interventions via technology or technique to alter events or outcomes. [10] [11] Applied and basic sciences can interface closely in research and development. [12] [13] The interface between basic research and applied research has been studied by the National Science Foundation.

A worker in basic scientific research is motivated by a driving curiosity about the unknown. When his explorations yield new knowledge, he experiences the satisfaction of those who first attain the summit of a mountain or the upper reaches of a river flowing through unmapped territory. Discovery of truth and understanding of nature are his objectives. His professional standing among his fellows depends upon the originality and soundness of his work. Creativeness in science is of a cloth with that of the poet or painter. [14]

It conducted a study in which it traced the relationship between basic scientific research efforts and the development of major innovations, such as oral contraceptives and videotape recorders. This study found that basic research played a key role in the development in all of the innovations. The number of basic science research[ clarification needed ] that assisted in the production of a given innovation peaked between 20 and 30 years before the innovation itself. While most innovation takes the form of applied science and most innovation occurs in the private sector, basic research is a necessary precursor to almost all applied science and associated instances of innovation. Roughly 76% of basic research is conducted by universities. [15]

A distinction can be made between basic science and disciplines such as medicine and technology. [10] [11] [16] [17] [18] They can be grouped as STM (science, technology, and medicine; not to be confused with STEM [science, technology, engineering, and mathematics]) or STS (science, technology, and society). These groups are interrelated and influence each other, [19] [20] [21] [22] [23] although they may differ in the specifics such as methods and standards. [11] [16] [23] [24] [25] [26] [27] [28] [29] [30] [31] [32] [33] [34] [35] [36]

The Nobel Prize mixes basic with applied sciences for its award in Physiology or Medicine. In contrast, the Royal Society of London awards distinguish natural science from applied science. [37]

See also

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Physics</span> Science about matter and energy

Physics is the natural science that studies matter, its fundamental constituents, its motion and behavior through space and time, and the related entities of energy and force. Physics is one of the most fundamental scientific disciplines, with its main goal being to understand how the universe behaves. A scientist who specializes in the field of physics is called a physicist.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Pseudoscience</span> Unscientific claims wrongly presented as scientific

Pseudoscience consists of statements, beliefs, or practices that claim to be both scientific and factual but are incompatible with the scientific method. Pseudoscience is often characterized by contradictory, exaggerated or unfalsifiable claims; reliance on confirmation bias rather than rigorous attempts at refutation; lack of openness to evaluation by other experts; absence of systematic practices when developing hypotheses; and continued adherence long after the pseudoscientific hypotheses have been experimentally discredited.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Paradigm shift</span> Fundamental change in concepts

A paradigm shift, a concept brought into the common lexicon by the American physicist and philosopher Thomas Kuhn, is a fundamental change in the basic concepts and experimental practices of a scientific discipline. Even though Kuhn restricted the use of the term to the natural sciences, the concept of a paradigm shift has also been used in numerous non-scientific contexts to describe a profound change in a fundamental model or perception of events.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Science</span> Systematic endeavor for gaining knowledge

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Bioethics is both a field of study and professional practice, interested in ethical issues related to health, including those emerging from advances in biology, medicine and technologies. It proposes the discussion about moral discernment in society and it is often related to medical policy and practice, but also to broader questions as environment, well-being and public health. Bioethics is concerned with the ethical questions that arise in the relationships among life sciences, biotechnology, medicine, politics, law, theology and philosophy. It includes the study of values relating to primary care, other branches of medicine, ethical education in science, animal, and environmental ethics, and public health.

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Applied science</span> Practical application of scientific knowledge

Applied science is the use of the scientific method and knowledge obtained via conclusions from the method to attain practical goals. It includes a broad range of disciplines such as engineering and medicine. Applied science is often contrasted with basic science, which is focused on advancing scientific theories and laws that explain and predict events in the natural world.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Methodology</span> Study of research methods

In its most common sense, methodology is the study of research methods. However, the term can also refer to the methods themselves or to the philosophical discussion of associated background assumptions. A method is a structured procedure for bringing about a certain goal. In the context of research, this goal is usually to discover new knowledge or to verify pre-existing knowledge claims. This normally involves various steps, like choosing a sample, collecting data from this sample, and interpreting this data. The study of methods involves a detailed description and analysis of these processes. It includes evaluative aspects by comparing different methods to assess their advantages and disadvantages relative to different research goals and situations. This way, a methodology can help make the research process efficient and reliable by guiding researchers on which method to employ at each step. These descriptions and evaluations of methods often depend on philosophical background assumptions. The assumptions are about issues like how the studied phenomena are to be conceptualized, what constitutes evidence for or against them, and what the general goal of research is. When understood in the widest sense, methodology also includes the discussion of these more abstract issues.

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Medical research</span> Wide array of research

Medical research, also known as experimental medicine, encompasses a wide array of research, extending from "basic research", – involving fundamental scientific principles that may apply to a preclinical understanding – to clinical research, which involves studies of people who may be subjects in clinical trials. Within this spectrum is applied research, or translational research, conducted to expand knowledge in the field of medicine.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Discovery science</span> Scientific methodology

Discovery science is a scientific methodology which aims to find new patterns, correlations, and form hypotheses through the analysis of large-scale experimental data. The term “discovery science” encompasses various fields of study, including basic, translational, and computational science and research. Discovery-based methodologies are commonly contrasted with traditional scientific practice, the latter involving hypothesis formation before experimental data is closely examined. Discovery science involves the process of inductive reasoning or using observations to make generalisations, and can be applied to a range of science-related fields, e.g., medicine, proteomics, hydrology, psychology, and psychiatry.

The moralistic fallacy is the informal fallacy of assuming that an aspect of nature which has socially unpleasant consequences cannot exist. Its typical form is "if X were true, then it would happen that Z!", where Z is a morally, socially or politically undesirable thing. What should be moral is assumed a priori to also be naturally occurring. The moralistic fallacy is sometimes presented as the inverse of the naturalistic fallacy. However, it could be seen as a variation of the very same naturalistic fallacy; the difference between them could be considered pragmatical, depending on the intentions of the person who uses it: naturalistic fallacy if the user wants to justify existing social practices with the argument that they are natural; moralistic fallacy if the user wants to combat existing social practices with the argument of denying that they are natural.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Outline of science</span> Overview of and topical guide to science

The following outline is provided as a topical overview of science; the discipline of science is defined as both the systematic effort of acquiring knowledge through observation, experimentation and reasoning, and the body of knowledge thus acquired, the word "science" derives from the Latin word scientia meaning knowledge. A practitioner of science is called a "scientist". Modern science respects objective logical reasoning, and follows a set of core procedures or rules to determine the nature and underlying natural laws of all things, with a scope encompassing the entire universe. These procedures, or rules, are known as the scientific method.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Branches of science</span> Overview of the disciplines of study

The branches of science, also referred to as sciences, scientific fields or scientific disciplines, are commonly divided into three major groups:

Translational research is research aimed at translating (converting) results in basic research into results that directly benefit humans. The term is used in science and technology, especially in biology and medical science. As such, translational research forms a subset of applied research.

The Bradford Hill criteria, otherwise known as Hill's criteria for causation, are a group of nine principles that can be useful in establishing epidemiologic evidence of a causal relationship between a presumed cause and an observed effect and have been widely used in public health research. They were established in 1965 by the English epidemiologist Sir Austin Bradford Hill.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Nutritional epidemiology</span> Field of medical research on disease and diet

Nutritional epidemiology examines dietary and nutritional factors in relation to disease occurrence at a population level. Nutritional epidemiology is a relatively new field of medical research that studies the relationship between nutrition and health. It is a young discipline in epidemiology that is continuing to grow in relevance to present-day health concerns. Diet and physical activity are difficult to measure accurately, which may partly explain why nutrition has received less attention than other risk factors for disease in epidemiology. Nutritional epidemiology uses knowledge from nutritional science to aid in the understanding of human nutrition and the explanation of basic underlying mechanisms. Nutritional science information is also used in the development of nutritional epidemiological studies and interventions including clinical, case-control and cohort studies. Nutritional epidemiological methods have been developed to study the relationship between diet and disease. Findings from these studies impact public health as they guide the development of dietary recommendations including those tailored specifically for the prevention of certain diseases, conditions and cancers. It is argued by western researchers that nutritional epidemiology should be a core component in the training of all health and social service professions because of its increasing relevance and past successes in improving the health of the public worldwide. However, it is also argued that nutritional epidemiological studies yield unreliable findings as they rely on the role of diet in health and disease, which is known as an exposure that is susceptible to considerable measurement error.

The philosophy of medicine is a branch of philosophy that explores issues in theory, research, and practice within the field of health sciences. More specifically in topics of epistemology, metaphysics, and medical ethics, which overlaps with bioethics. Philosophy and medicine, both beginning with the ancient Greeks, have had a long history of overlapping ideas. It was not until the nineteenth century that the professionalization of the philosophy of medicine came to be. In the late twentieth century, debates among philosophers and physicians ensued of whether the philosophy of medicine should be considered a field of its own from either philosophy or medicine. A consensus has since been reached that it is in fact a distinct discipline with its set of separate problems and questions. In recent years there have been a variety of university courses, journals, books, textbooks and conferences dedicated to the philosophy of medicine. There is also a new direction, or school, in the philosophy of medicine termed analytic philosophy of medicine.

Metascience is the use of scientific methodology to study science itself. Metascience seeks to increase the quality of scientific research while reducing inefficiency. It is also known as "research on research" and "the science of science", as it uses research methods to study how research is done and find where improvements can be made. Metascience concerns itself with all fields of research and has been described as "a bird's eye view of science". In the words of John Ioannidis, "Science is the best thing that has happened to human beings ... but we can do it better."


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