Celebrating 19 Years on the Web
TODAY IN SCIENCE HISTORY ®
Find science on or your birthday

Today in Science History - Quickie Quiz
Who said: “Environmental extremists ... wouldn’t let you build a house unless it looked like a bird’s nest.”
more quiz questions >>
Home > Category Index for Science Quotations > Category Index B > Category: Basic Research

Basic Research Quotes (14 quotes)

Basic research at universities comes in two varieties: research that requires big bucks and research that requires small bucks. Big bucks research is much like government research and in fact usually is government research but done for the government under contract. Like other government research, big bucks academic research is done to understand the nature and structure of the universe or to understand life, which really means that it is either for blowing up the world or extending life, whichever comes first. Again, that's the government's motivation. The universities' motivation for conducting big bucks research is to bring money in to support professors and graduate students and to wax the floors of ivy-covered buildings. While we think they are busy teaching and learning, these folks are mainly doing big bucks basic research for a living, all the while priding themselves on their terrific summer vacations and lack of a dress code.
Smalls bucks research is the sort of thing that requires paper and pencil, and maybe a blackboard, and is aimed primarily at increasing knowledge in areas of study that don't usually attract big bucks - that is, areas that don't extend life or end it, or both. History, political science, and romance languages are typically small bucks areas of basic research. The real purpose of small bucks research to the universities is to provide a means of deciding, by the quality of their small bucks research, which professors in these areas should get tenure.
Accidental Empires (1992), 78.
Science quotes on:  |   (2863)  |  Academic (18)  |  Aim (165)  |  All (4108)  |  Basic (138)  |  Blackboard (11)  |  Blowing (22)  |  Both (493)  |  Building (156)  |  Code (31)  |  Doing (280)  |  End (590)  |  Extend (128)  |  Fact (1210)  |  First (1283)  |  Government (110)  |  Graduate (29)  |  Graduate Student (11)  |  History (673)  |  Knowledge (1529)  |  Lack (119)  |  Language (293)  |  Learning (274)  |  Life (1795)  |  Living (491)  |  Mean (809)  |  Means (579)  |  Money (170)  |  Motivation (27)  |  Nature (1926)  |  Other (2236)  |  Paper (182)  |  Pencil (20)  |  Political (121)  |  Political Science (2)  |  Professor (128)  |  Purpose (317)  |  Quality (135)  |  Require (219)  |  Research (664)  |  Romance (15)  |  Science (3879)  |  Small (477)  |  Structure (344)  |  Student (300)  |  Study (653)  |  Summer (54)  |  Support (147)  |  Teaching (188)  |  Tenure (7)  |  Terrific (4)  |  Themselves (433)  |  Thing (1915)  |  Think (1086)  |  Two (937)  |  Understand (606)  |  Universe (857)  |  University (121)  |  Usually (176)  |  Wax (13)  |  World (1774)

Basic research is like shooting an arrow into the air and, where it lands, painting a target.
As quoted by Walter Gratzer, in book review titled 'The Bomb and the Bumble-Bees' (about the book Late Night Thoughts, by Lewis Thomas), Nature (15 Nov 1984), 31, 211. The original text expresses the quote as “It was the organic chemist, Homer Adkins, who defined basic research as shooting an arrow into the air, and…”.
Science quotes on:  |  Air (347)  |  Arrow (20)  |  Basic (138)  |  Land (115)  |  Paint (22)  |  Research (664)  |  Shoot (19)  |  Target (9)

Basic research is not the same as development. A crash program for the latter may be successful; but for the former it is like trying to make nine women pregnant at once in the hope of getting a baby in a month’s time.
In New Scientist, November 18, 1976.
Science quotes on:  |   (2863)  |  Baby (28)  |  Basic (138)  |  Development (422)  |  Former (137)  |  Hope (299)  |  Month (88)  |  Research (664)  |  Successful (123)  |  Time (1877)  |  Trying (144)

Basic research is what I am doing when I don't know what I am doing.
Attributed.
Science quotes on:  |  Basic (138)  |  Doing (280)  |  Know (1518)  |  Research (664)

Basic research may seem very expensive. I am a well-paid scientist. My hourly wage is equal to that of a plumber, but sometimes my research remains barren of results for weeks, months or years and my conscience begins to bother me for wasting the taxpayer’s money. But in reviewing my life’s work, I have to think that the expense was not wasted.
Basic research, to which we owe everything, is relatively very cheap when compared with other outlays of modern society. The other day I made a rough calculation which led me to the conclusion that if one were to add up all the money ever spent by man on basic research, one would find it to be just about equal to the money spent by the Pentagon this past year.
In The Crazy Ape (1971).
Science quotes on:  |   (2863)  |  All (4108)  |  Barren (30)  |  Basic (138)  |  Begin (260)  |  Calculation (127)  |  Conclusion (254)  |  Conscience (50)  |  Everything (476)  |  Find (998)  |  Life (1795)  |  Man (2251)  |  Modern (385)  |  Money (170)  |  Month (88)  |  Other (2236)  |  Owe (71)  |  Past (337)  |  Plumber (10)  |  Remain (349)  |  Research (664)  |  Result (677)  |  Scientist (820)  |  Society (326)  |  Spent (85)  |  Think (1086)  |  Week (70)  |  Work (1351)  |  Year (933)

It is when physicians are bogged down … when they lack a clear understanding of disease mechanisms, that the deficiencies of the health-care system are most conspicuous. If I were a policy-maker, interested in saving money for health care over the long haul, I would regard it as an act of high prudence to give high priority to a lot more basic research in biologic science.
In 'The Technology of Medicine', The Lives of a Cell: Notes of a Biology Watcher (1974), 41-42.
Science quotes on:  |  Act (272)  |  Basic (138)  |  Care (186)  |  Clear (100)  |  Conspicuous (12)  |  Deficiency (12)  |  Disease (328)  |  Down (456)  |  Health (193)  |  Health Care (9)  |  High (362)  |  Human Biology (3)  |  Interest (386)  |  Interested (5)  |  Lack (119)  |  Long (790)  |  Lot (151)  |  Maker (34)  |  Mechanism (96)  |  Money (170)  |  More (2559)  |  Most (1731)  |  Physician (273)  |  Priority (10)  |  Prudent (5)  |  Regard (305)  |  Research (664)  |  Saving (20)  |  Science (3879)  |  System (537)  |  Understanding (513)

It was basic research in the photoelectric field—in the photoelectric effect that would one day lead to solar panels. It was basic research in physics that would eventually produce the CAT scan. The calculations of today's GPS satellites are based on the equations that Einstein put to paper more than a century ago.
Speech to the National Academy of Sciences Annual Meeting (27 Apr 2009).
Science quotes on:  |   (2863)  |  Basic (138)  |  Calculation (127)  |  Cat (47)  |  CAT Scan (2)  |  Century (310)  |  Effect (393)  |  Einstein (101)  |  Albert Einstein (605)  |  Equation (132)  |  Eventually (65)  |  Field (364)  |  GPS (2)  |  Lead (384)  |  More (2559)  |  Panel (2)  |  Paper (182)  |  Photoelectric Effect (2)  |  Physic (517)  |  Physics (533)  |  Research (664)  |  Satellite (28)  |  Solar (8)  |  Today (314)

Science can be thought of as a large pool of knowledge, fed by a steady flow from the tap of basic research. Every now and then the water is dipped out and put to use, but one never knows which part of the water will be needed. This confuses the funding situation for basic science, because usually no specific piece of scientific work can be justified in advance; one cannot know which is going to be decisive. Yet history shows that keeping water flowing into the pool is a very worthwhile enterprise.
In 'Technology Development', Science (1983), 220, 576-580. As quoted and cited in H. Charles Romesburg, Best Research Practices (2009), 213.
Science quotes on:  |  Advance (280)  |  Basic (138)  |  Confuse (19)  |  Decisive (25)  |  Enterprise (54)  |  Flow (83)  |  Fund (18)  |  Funding (19)  |  History (673)  |  Justify (24)  |  Know (1518)  |  Knowledge (1529)  |  Large (394)  |  Need (290)  |  Never (1087)  |  Piece (38)  |  Research (664)  |  Science (3879)  |  Scientific (941)  |  Show (346)  |  Situation (113)  |  Specific (95)  |  Steady (44)  |  Tap (10)  |  Thought (953)  |  Use (766)  |  Usually (176)  |  Water (481)  |  Will (2355)  |  Work (1351)  |  Worthwhile (18)

The companies that can afford to do basic research (and can’t afford not to) are ones that dominate their markets. … It’s cheap insurance, since failing to do basic research guarantees that the next major advance will be owned by someone else.
In Accidental Empires (1992), 79.
Science quotes on:  |   (2863)  |  Advance (280)  |  Basic (138)  |  Company (59)  |  Competition (39)  |  Do (1908)  |  Guarantee (30)  |  Insurance (9)  |  Major (84)  |  Market (20)  |  Next (236)  |  Research (664)  |  Technology (257)  |  Will (2355)

The hybridoma technology was a by-product of basic research. Its success in practical applications is to a large extent the result of unexpected and unpredictable properties of the method. It thus represents another clear-cut example of the enormous practical impact of an investment in research which might not have been considered commercially worthwhile, or of immediate medical relevance. It resulted from esoteric speculations, for curiosity’s sake, only motivated by a desire to understand nature.
From Nobel Lecture (8 Dec 1984), collected in Tore Frängsmyr and Jan Lindsten (eds.), Nobel Lectures in Physiology Or Medicine: 1981-1990 (1993), 267-268.
Science quotes on:  |   (2863)  |  Application (242)  |  Basic (138)  |  By-Product (7)  |  Clear-Cut (10)  |  Commercial (26)  |  Consider (416)  |  Curiosity (128)  |  Cut (114)  |  Desire (204)  |  Enormous (41)  |  Esoteric (3)  |  Example (94)  |  Extent (139)  |  Hybridoma (2)  |  Immediate (95)  |  Impact (42)  |  Investment (13)  |  Large (394)  |  Medical (26)  |  Method (505)  |  Motivated (14)  |  Motivation (27)  |  Nature (1926)  |  Practical (200)  |  Product (160)  |  Property (168)  |  Relevance (16)  |  Represent (155)  |  Research (664)  |  Result (677)  |  Sake (58)  |  Speculation (126)  |  Success (302)  |  Technology (257)  |  Understand (606)  |  Understanding (513)  |  Unexpected (52)  |  Unpredictable (17)  |  Worthwhile (18)

The justification for [basic research] is that this constitutes the fount of all new knowledge, without which the opportunities for further technical progress must eventually become exhausted.
From a British government publication, Technological Innovation in Britain (1968), quoted by M. Gibbons and C. Johnson in 'Relationship between Science and Technology', Nature, (11 Jul 1970), 125. As cited in Arie Leegwater, 'Technology and Science', Stephen V. Monsma (ed.), Responsible Technology: A Christian Perspective (1986), 79.
Science quotes on:  |  All (4108)  |  Basic (138)  |  Become (815)  |  Constitute (97)  |  Eventually (65)  |  Exhausted (3)  |  Justification (48)  |  Knowledge (1529)  |  Must (1526)  |  New (1216)  |  Opportunity (87)  |  Progress (465)  |  Research (664)  |  Technology (257)

This is the element that distinguishes applied science from basic. Surprise is what makes the difference. When you are organized to apply knowledge, set up targets, produce a usable product, you require a high degree of certainty from the outset. All the facts on which you base protocols must be reasonably hard facts with unambiguous meaning. The challenge is to plan the work and organize the workers so that it will come out precisely as predicted. For this, you need centralized authority, elaborately detailed time schedules, and some sort of reward system based on speed and perfection. But most of all you need the intelligible basic facts to begin with, and these must come from basic research. There is no other source. In basic research, everything is just the opposite. What you need at the outset is a high degree of uncertainty; otherwise it isn’t likely to be an important problem. You start with an incomplete roster of facts, characterized by their ambiguity; often the problem consists of discovering the connections between unrelated pieces of information. You must plan experiments on the basis of probability, even bare possibility, rather than certainty.
The Planning of Science, The Lives of a Cell: Notes of a Biology Watcher, (1974) .
Science quotes on:  |  All (4108)  |  Ambiguity (17)  |  Applied (177)  |  Applied Science (34)  |  Apply (160)  |  Authority (95)  |  Bare (33)  |  Base (117)  |  Basic (138)  |  Basis (173)  |  Begin (260)  |  Certainty (174)  |  Challenge (85)  |  Connection (162)  |  Consist (223)  |  Degree (276)  |  Detail (146)  |  Difference (337)  |  Element (310)  |  Everything (476)  |  Experiment (695)  |  Fact (1210)  |  Facts (553)  |  Hard (243)  |  High (362)  |  Incomplete (30)  |  Information (166)  |  Intelligible (34)  |  Knowledge (1529)  |  Meaning (233)  |  Most (1731)  |  Must (1526)  |  Opposite (104)  |  Organize (29)  |  Other (2236)  |  Perfection (129)  |  Plan (117)  |  Possibility (164)  |  Precisely (92)  |  Predict (79)  |  Probability (130)  |  Problem (676)  |  Product (160)  |  Require (219)  |  Research (664)  |  Reward (68)  |  Science (3879)  |  Set (394)  |  Speed (65)  |  Start (221)  |  Surprise (86)  |  System (537)  |  Target (9)  |  Time (1877)  |  Uncertainty (56)  |  Will (2355)  |  Work (1351)

Why do we do basic research? To learn about ourselves.
From interview with Anthony Liversidge, in 'Walter Gilbert', Omni (Nov 1992), 15, No. 2.
Science quotes on:  |  Basic (138)  |  Do (1908)  |  Learn (629)  |  Ourselves (245)  |  Research (664)  |  Why (491)

Willis Rodney Whitney ... once compared scientific research to a bridge being constructed by a builder who was fascinated by the construction problems involved. Basic research, he suggested, is such a bridge built wherever it strikes the builder's fancy—wherever the construction problems seem to him to be most challenging. Applied research, on the other hand, is a bridge built where people are waiting to get across the river. The challenge to the builder's ingenuity and skill, Whitney pointed out, can be as great in one case as the other.
'Willis Rodney Whitney', National Academy of Sciences, Biographical Memoirs (1960), 351.
Science quotes on:  |   (2863)  |  Applied (177)  |  Applied Research (2)  |  Basic (138)  |  Being (1278)  |  Bridge (47)  |  Builder (12)  |  Challenge (85)  |  Comparison (102)  |  Construct (124)  |  Construction (112)  |  Fancy (50)  |  Fascination (32)  |  Great (1574)  |  Ingenuity (39)  |  Involved (90)  |  Most (1731)  |  Other (2236)  |  People (1005)  |  Point (580)  |  Problem (676)  |  Research (664)  |  River (119)  |  Scientific (941)  |  Skill (109)  |  Strike (68)  |  Wait (58)  |  Waiting (43)  |  Wherever (51)  |  Willis R. Whitney (17)


Carl Sagan Thumbnail In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,' and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion. (1987) -- Carl Sagan
Quotations by:Albert EinsteinIsaac NewtonLord KelvinCharles DarwinSrinivasa RamanujanCarl SaganFlorence NightingaleThomas EdisonAristotleMarie CurieBenjamin FranklinWinston ChurchillGalileo GalileiSigmund FreudRobert BunsenLouis PasteurTheodore RooseveltAbraham LincolnRonald ReaganLeonardo DaVinciMichio KakuKarl PopperJohann GoetheRobert OppenheimerCharles Kettering  ... (more people)

Quotations about:Atomic  BombBiologyChemistryDeforestationEngineeringAnatomyAstronomyBacteriaBiochemistryBotanyConservationDinosaurEnvironmentFractalGeneticsGeologyHistory of ScienceInventionJupiterKnowledgeLoveMathematicsMeasurementMedicineNatural ResourceOrganic ChemistryPhysicsPhysicianQuantum TheoryResearchScience and ArtTeacherTechnologyUniverseVolcanoVirusWind PowerWomen ScientistsX-RaysYouthZoology  ... (more topics)
Sitewide search within all Today In Science History pages:
Visit our Science and Scientist Quotations index for more Science Quotes from archaeologists, biologists, chemists, geologists, inventors and inventions, mathematicians, physicists, pioneers in medicine, science events and technology.

Names index: | A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z |

Categories index: | 1 | 2 | A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z |

- 100 -
Sophie Germain
Gertrude Elion
Ernest Rutherford
James Chadwick
Marcel Proust
William Harvey
Johann Goethe
John Keynes
Carl Gauss
Paul Feyerabend
- 90 -
Antoine Lavoisier
Lise Meitner
Charles Babbage
Ibn Khaldun
Euclid
Ralph Emerson
Robert Bunsen
Frederick Banting
Andre Ampere
Winston Churchill
- 80 -
John Locke
Bronislaw Malinowski
Bible
Thomas Huxley
Alessandro Volta
Erwin Schrodinger
Wilhelm Roentgen
Louis Pasteur
Bertrand Russell
Jean Lamarck
- 70 -
Samuel Morse
John Wheeler
Nicolaus Copernicus
Robert Fulton
Pierre Laplace
Humphry Davy
Thomas Edison
Lord Kelvin
Theodore Roosevelt
Carolus Linnaeus
- 60 -
Francis Galton
Linus Pauling
Immanuel Kant
Martin Fischer
Robert Boyle
Karl Popper
Paul Dirac
Avicenna
James Watson
William Shakespeare
- 50 -
Stephen Hawking
Niels Bohr
Nikola Tesla
Rachel Carson
Max Planck
Henry Adams
Richard Dawkins
Werner Heisenberg
Alfred Wegener
John Dalton
- 40 -
Pierre Fermat
Edward Wilson
Johannes Kepler
Gustave Eiffel
Giordano Bruno
JJ Thomson
Thomas Kuhn
Leonardo DaVinci
Archimedes
David Hume
- 30 -
Andreas Vesalius
Rudolf Virchow
Richard Feynman
James Hutton
Alexander Fleming
Emile Durkheim
Benjamin Franklin
Robert Oppenheimer
Robert Hooke
Charles Kettering
- 20 -
Carl Sagan
James Maxwell
Marie Curie
Rene Descartes
Francis Crick
Hippocrates
Michael Faraday
Srinivasa Ramanujan
Francis Bacon
Galileo Galilei
- 10 -
Aristotle
John Watson
Rosalind Franklin
Michio Kaku
Isaac Asimov
Charles Darwin
Sigmund Freud
Albert Einstein
Florence Nightingale
Isaac Newton



who invites your feedback
Thank you for sharing.
Today in Science History
Sign up for Newsletter
with quiz, quotes and more.