February 25th, 2009

Pure vs Applied Research


Geoff Davis

Stephen Quake, a Stanford biophysics professor, has been guest writing a column in the New York Times. His opening column was on the links between pure and applied research. He raises a lot of great points about how applied research can lead to new ideas for pure research and vice versa (and includes a few nice digs at theory snobs who pooh-pooh those of us who toil in the applied trenches).

Given daunting problems of energy and climate change, I think we are going to see increasing funding emphasis on more applied work – this is for the good, I think, but will surely raise hackles among some. Quake’s point about the two-way flow of ideas is an important one to remember as is his model of hybrid work in both pure and applied research.