2008-09-08

Research Priorities

I've just listened to David King saying that we should switch our research funding away from fundamental research and direct it towards the practical problems we face, such as climate change, population growth and AIDS in poor countries.

I instinctively disagree with this. Thinking further, there are two reasons for disagreeing:

1. The issues that David is talking about are political problems rather than scientific problems. The solution to many of these problems is a world government, not a change in funding priorities.

2. Once you have good government, then science and technology is important to people's quality of life. With fundamental research, you never know where it's going to lead. Often there are practical applications that result. For example, would David have cut research into quantum mechanics? If so, he would have damaged the computer industry, and I wouldn't have been able to read his views on the BBC website, or be able to post this response.

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