Basic research is foundation for solutions
SCIENTISTS FIND it difficult to communicate the importance and potential applied significance of what is called basic research. This is especially true when those who have limited knowledge of their scientific field of study do not understand the specific scientific principles involved in a particular project. If it is difficult to envision the possible practical outcome of a research project, then there is a risk for important basic research to be considered frivolous or even "pork barrel" funded.
Question: What is "basic research"?
Answer: Basic research refers to studies that, on the surface, might be done simply to gain knowledge for its own sake. Although a particular study's results might have no direct practical application, basic research can provide the essential steppingstones to more applied research that eventually solves specific problems.
Q: What are some examples of basic and applied research?
A: Excellent examples of both basic and applied research were presented at the University of Hawaii College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources Student Research Symposium that showcased the work of more than 100 undergraduate and graduate students earlier this month.
For example, you might tend to drift into a mental haze upon reading the title "Hydrogen Production from Glycerin Reforming." However, the study produced basic information that could be applied to making the production of biodiesel fuel more affordable.
Biodiesel is produced from renewable resources like fats and vegetable oils. It is used like regular diesel fuel. Glycerin is a major byproduct of biodiesel production.
Consequently, using the glycerin byproduct to produce additional usable energy in the form of hydrogen gas could significantly reduce the cost of biodiesel production in the future.
The research symposium also showcased many projects that applied concepts learned from previous basic research. These studies applied previous basic research to solve practical problems related to the disease resistance of plants and the growth of animals. Much of this work is likely to provide the basis for economically feasible business operation s in the future.
Still other studies reported research with direct application to agricultural production, saving endangered species and promoting community health. Progress in environmental, agricultural and human health hinges on both basic and applied research.
, Ph.D., C.N.S. and Joannie Dobbs
, Ph.D., C.N.S. are
nutritionists in the Department of Human Nutrition, Food and Animal Sciences, College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources, UH-Manoa. Dr. Dobbs also works with the University Health Services and prepares the nutritional analyses marked with an asterisk in this section. See also: Health Events