Unfortunate though it is, we in the scientific community seem to have to justify regularly the “relevance” of basic, or curiosity-driven, research. Case in point, the February 2008 issue of the CAUT Bulletin has a commentary by Vern Paetkau who makes the point once again that basic research underpins most future advances in applied science. I will let Dr. Paetkau speak for himself by simply referring you to his piece, which can be found here. I will, however, re-quote what I think is a superb point by Nobel laureate Arthur Kornberg:
“No matter how counter-intuitive it may seem, basic research is the lifeline of practical advances in medicine and pioneering inventions are the source of industrial strength.”
Scientists know this, but those with control of the funds often do not see it this way — and that’s a big problem for everyone, not just researchers.