The Importance of Useful Science

The purpose of good science is to contribute to a general collection of knowledge. This is the fundamental purpose of research journals. However, it cannot be their only objective. A well-written paper could be misinterpreted or even erroneously classified as unsuitable for publication because of its inutility.

The pursuit of pure knowledge is not impeded by the need to prove relevance. In fact, practical issues can motivate new pure research (as, for example, in Michael Faraday’s electrical research, which were prompted by his interest in lightning).

We also know that technological applications originate from a variety of sources. For example a medical trip to Easter Island focused on the population’s unique resistance to tetanus, but a later transfer of soil samples from that site to Ayerst Pharmaceuticals spurred further investigations into natural antimicrobials.

These examples demonstrate that the distinction between ‘pure’ and ‘applied’ research is not true. A more effective criterion is to encourage the development of a wide variety of practical applications that could be drawn from research findings as well as increase the knowledge of scientists so that they can see the potential of their research. This is the primary goal of translational ecology, which is a bid to change the basic/applicable science paradigm by explicitly involving key stakeholders in the generation and use of scientific knowledge (Enquist et al. 2017).

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