Column: Undercover academic
Science for society
Must all research have immediate and tangible economic impact? Not all applied research has appreciable economic impact, and much pure science research will open up routes to unimagined benefits and financial gain.
That's not to say that the economic potential of research should be dismissed, rather that it should hold its rightful place as a possible outcome of the research. There is also a case to be made for others taking up the challenge of pushing research outcomes into tangible benefits to society, leaving researchers free to be creative at the cutting edge of their subjects. We do need to be mindful of the potential benefits of our research to those who pay for the research - the tax payer. That's not necessarily the same as economic benefit, but the benefit of research to society can be far more wide reaching than mere financial gain.
In the current climate of shrinking budgets it may seem easier for researchers to be swayed by political will, and move into fashionably fundable areas of research. We should resist because diversity is an advantage in all aspects of life. Besides, who knows where the next research paradigm will come from?
The Undercover academic is a university lecturer in the UK