Is Basic Research Underrated?

Published on: 2018/05/20


Applied research is undoubtedly a necessity for the betterment of our lives. In the recent years, we have seen tremendous advancements in the field of life sciences and healthcare industry. However, basic research, that confers the knowledge necessary for the application, has of late been receiving lesser importance and funding, especially in India. Is it right to continue the way it is? If not, why do we need to escalate the status of basic research?

Interest Category

Basic research, applied research, research in life science and healthcare

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Basic research Vs. Applied Research

Research, in general, can be classified into two categories- a) Basic research b) Applied research. Basic research is the kind of research that is fuelled by curiosity and done only for the purpose of understanding. It may not have any particular goal. The purpose of basic research is to just collect information. The knowledge gathered need not be used for anything specifically. It is just to have a better understanding.

Applied research, on the other hand, is the kind of research conducted with specific goals in mind. The end result of such research is to have inventions that will improve our daily lives and bring our new products in the market.

Basic and applied research in reality are closely related. Basic research is not about what is being studied, but how it is studied.

Examples of basic research

As a simple example, studying about malaria to have a better understanding gets classified as basic research, while studying it to develop new drugs or methods of treatment becomes applied research.

Basic research is also called pure or fundamental research as it focuses on improving knowledge around a subject rather than finding solutions. It is theoretical in nature and tends to focus on understanding basic laws that have universal applicability. Hence, basic research helps to add to our existing knowledge database.

Applied research aims at providing real-life applications. They are done to provide solutions or drive innovations.

Though basic research gives no immediate results, the knowledge derived  can be used in applied research years later. GPS technology that is used today, has been developed on the framework of the basic research conducted by Professor Emeritus Dan Kleppner in the 1960s. He helped invent the hydrogen maser which is the foundation for GPS.

The research in pure mathematics done century ago led to the invention of computers. There was probably no need for any search into pure mathematics then, but with the new knowledge available, scientists were able to revolutionize and improve life years later.

Read more – Is basic research underrated? by Devi Prasad

Basic research can be used in a lot of fields like business, education, psychology, economics, management, medicine etc. In business, basic research can be used to improve productivity by studying factors that affect productivity.

In the case of education, the knowledge needs to be constantly updated and basic research provides all the inputs that are needed by updating and understanding of various topics. Psychology helps to understand the various aspects of human behavior. There may not be solutions to any problems here, but it provides a better understanding to develop solutions in the future.