basic research wackaloonery

May 28 2013 Published by under NIH, NIH Careerism, NIH funding

Here's the thing. Yes, it is true that health advances are built on a firm foundation of basic research. So the National Institutes of Health are going to require a lot of basic research get done to fulfill their fundamental mission of improving public health.

When we talk about 'translational' research, the fundamental concept under the tritely dismissible buzzwording is solid reality. We need to go from basic science, basic discovery to applications with human patients. And that takes a lot of people, a lot of time, a lot of investment and a LOT of blind alleys. We know this.

But you can get different people with different attitudes working on "basic" research. And as far as I am concerned there is no problem having a bias against the ones who proudly and arrogantly proclaim that they would never dirty their high-falutin' "basic research" interests with anything so pedestrian as a potential application.

Screw em.

I'd rather award the grants to those basic scientists who have some recognition that they are being paid by the taxpayers to solve health problems, not to entertain themselves with faked up model organism systems that will never translate. Or to engage in sub-sub-sub-field arguments about how many proteins fit on the head of a nanobot pin. Or to be so interested in the "get", i.e. a Nature, Cell or Science paper accepted, that they will fail to publish all sorts of data that they have generated on the public dime.

61 responses so far

  • The Iron Chemist says:

    Some reproducible research of any flavor would be nice.

  • miko says:

    The NIH funds both "basic" and "applied" research, traditionally without trying to draw a strict boundary between them. I don't know of any way of describing its history and track record other than "spectacularly successful." By funding a huge diversity of research with many, many grants of many kinds, it has created the most successful social collective research enterprise anywhere, ever.

    It's also a big, infuriating, wasteful federal government bureaucracy...so is everything else done on anything approaching this scale.

    I've never met a scientist who does not hope their work some day contributes to improvement of the world. But, because this is a collective enterprise, I would include every scientist funded by the NIH who has competently pursued honest research, whether it ended up having had any direct impact on anything, as having contributed. Every single one of us is totally irrelevant and dispensable for science to continue as an enterprise, but we are all contributing.

    What would take the wheels off this thing is the arrogant presumption that top-down determinations of "what's important" or will be in the future would yield better improvements to health. It's scientific monoculture. Bureaucracies are terrible at this, but a swarm of funded scientists with diverse priorities, interests, and abilities are perfect. Plant a thousand seeds works every time.

  • Jim Woodgett says:

    Agree on the need to consider the full spectrum of research and the monofocalism some basic scientists can exhibit - not wishing to contaminate their pure research with any form of application - but there is an underlying issue which is that discovery research is more difficult to explain/defend/relate to compared to research where the work is not so far from application/relevance. This issue is most acute in hospital research settings where donors, for example, find it difficult to get as excited about peering into the neurological circuitry of a nematode compared to research looking at stem cell healing of a wound. This tends to make researchers of tractable organisms, basic biology and physical properties more defensive. The danger is in pitching on against the other - they should not compete - they relate to different points along a spectrum and all are warranted. However, it is easier to pander to the more superficial knowledge of funders with "relevant" research than more esoteric studies - even though there are prime examples of subsequent application of knowledge. This is why basic researchers need to stop whining and become better at communicating their role. Don't criticize the "translators" work with them and build your own messages. I interact with lots of philanthropists and they are increasingly science literate and recognize excellence, as well as hype and exaggeration. It's their money, after all, and they don't want to waste it.

  • Busy says:

    I've never met a scientist who does not hope their work some day contributes to improvement of the world.

    I've met many who proudly claim that their work has no connection to the real world and sneer at those whose research does.

  • drugmonkey says:

    I've met many who proudly claim that their work has no connection to the real world and sneer at those whose research does.

    So have I.

  • jipkin says:

    but knowledge for knowledge's sake... so pure... so delicious... so righteous...

  • Dario Ringach says:

    "I'd rather award the grants to those basic scientists...."

    Would Watson & Crick be funded by a the DM funding agency?

    Yes, scientists ought to recognize their work is supported by the public. And the public (and maybe some clinicians?) ought to recognize how science works and that the search for cures is most surely enhanced by knowing how biology works at its most fundamental level.

  • drugmonkey says:

    Would Watson & Crick be funded by a the DM funding agency?

    Are you mad?

  • toto@club-med.so says:

    I can imagine all the "good" reasons to deny funding to W&C...

    "If Pauling couldn't do it, no chance these nobodies can."

    "No preliminary data! Are they taking the piss?"

    "Wilkins and Franklin are doing the same thing anyway, why duplicate?"

  • Dario Ringach says:

    Not mad... Just asking.

    It seems to me your funding criteria rest more on the evaluation of a scientist's civic duty than the value of his/her science. Strange thing to suggest.

    So, what's the answer to my original question?

  • DrugMonkey says:

    I can't possibly answer that since

    1) I am contaminated by knowing their later-life behavior

    And

    2) I wouldn't make predictions about what I would think of any particular theoretical proposal at any point in time.

    I doubt I would have been swayed by Paulings BSD-ness but is is possible I would have been by W/F being further along. Going by my typical review cant.

  • DrugMonkey says:

    But anyway, I take the role of the NIH reviewer as *advisory to the NIH on their goals* seriously. There are many ways in which they make it clear that basic science is of interest only insofar as it supports health related progress. Substituting your own bias for basic science just because it benefits you is dereliction, in my view.

  • DrugMonkey says:

    I have yet to hear any NIH instruction that they want Science and Nature papers, for example.

  • miko says:

    First goal in NIH's mission:

    "to foster fundamental creative discoveries, innovative research strategies, *AND* their applications as a basis for *ULTIMATELY* protecting and improving health;"

    There is no explicit or implied criterion that NIH funded research should have application as a proximal goal. Basic "and" applied research are both essential, but nothing suggests all grants need to attempt both.

  • miko says:

    And please point me to any statement by any non-physicist scientists "who proudly claim that their work has no connection to the real world and sneer at those whose research does."

    I'm seriously interested to know. I have not encountered this attitude.

  • Physician Scientist says:

    Wilkins and Franklin would have figured it out within 6 months time anyway.

  • anonymous postdoc says:

    I have been told by a Representative of the Program of a particular Institute that I need to increase the IF of my publications. So not explicitly Science or Nature, no, no, not that, never that, but yeah, Science or Nature, like that. Of course, I am trying to do this regardless of this instruction, but let's not pretend that ICs don't have goals that are not explicitly enumerated in the NIH mission statement.

    Let those fuckers who love their knowledge for knowledge's sake take that noise to NSF, which is what it is designed to fund. It is not the National Institutes of Whatever Sounds Cool Brah, it is explicitly Health. The saving grace is that from what I have observed, Program does actually care about the potential health impact of a project, which is how those Hail Mary pickups happen, over the incredibly highly rated but for some reason unfunded project *cough limited public health relevance?cough*.

  • miko says:

    Right. And the DoD is "explicitly for Defense."

  • GM says:

    Has anyone ever bothered to comprehensively evaluate the amount of effort and money spent on research on model organisms and the impact on health that that research has had compared to the the amount of money and effort spent on research directly related to health and how much that has paid off??? Because it would seem to me that the ratio is about 10 to 1 in favor of the latter but the scientific return on investment (from the point of view of clinical relevance, I am not even talking about fundamental science here) is in favor of obscure research on model (and even non-model, PCR anyone?) organisms.

  • GM says:

    Would Watson & Crick be funded by a the DM funding agency?

    Something that seems to be left out of the ensuing discussion is that they didn't really have to be funded aside from their salaries. They were mostly sitting and thinking. Quite different situation from today.

  • DrugMonkey says:

    And, you know, just "sitting and thinking, *about other people's data*!

  • Anonymoustache says:

    Ay, there's the rub. Funding only that which we can clearly see as applicable to human health applications involves the prejudice of what we know and potentially prohibits, or at least delays, groundbreaking ideas and contributions from seemingly unrelated areas. It can be argued that more has been understood about cancer from cell cycle research in yeast than has been from studying tumors...people working on cell fate determination in worms blew open the field of the role of RNA in the regulation of gene expression...and so on....but anyway, the reality is that the pot of money is always shrinking relative to the mouths(brains?) to feed, so it is incumbent on the applicant to try and project/demonstrate how his/her work may eventually affect the human condition. Having a snobbish attitude toward the applied side is just as stupid as showing derision toward the completely 'basic' work. If you presume to know where your next great break is coming from, you're almost always looking the wrong way. So, I think, fund people with skill and imagination, regardless of what they work on, especially if they can make a good case, however 'imaginative' it may be, on why it may positively affect the human health condition....heck, I'd even argue that if you cannot relate what you do imaginatively to the betterment of the human condition, then maybe you don't possess the smarts to recognize something transformative if it came and bit you in your notebook...

  • DrugMonkey says:

    Srsly? Is that really you man? Where the hell you been the past, three years? Prison?

  • Anonymoustache says:

    No, no, nothing like that....been just fine...just been occupied otherwise with life...needed a break from the web crawl...been dropping in on old web friends, tho, mostly silently....didn't have much to add much of the time, and sometimes didn't have the time or energy to type it when I did....

  • DrugMonkey says:

    Heh. All good, hope you and yours are doing well.

  • Pinko Punko says:

    Sounds like anecdata. We all know cobags of lots of different stripes. I don't think basic research is too big of a problem. I mean, how many people are really working on arabidopsis models for prostate cancer?

  • mikka says:

    Model organisms are having a rough time (Source: I'm having a rough time). But funding usually follows what people are doing, seldom the reverse. People usually go for the most appropriate and convenient model, as close to the organism where the question arose, and most biological questions arise in observation of humans. At least those that have a chance at NIH funding.

    So what are people doing? I think that model organisms below mice are being abandoned because the tools in mammalian biology are catching up rapidly. The advent of RNAi techniques, in particular, made genetics of all kinds rapid and approachable in mammalian systems. Witness the stagnation of publication rates in yeast vs the spike Mammalian cell lines papers that immediately followed the 2001 Elbashir and Tuschl paper.

    The writing on the wall tells me that it's not prejudice against basic research that's killing model organisms. Maybe we don't need them anymore.

  • I find that too many basic research fetishists seem to go out of their way NOT to find relevance for their work, whether out of a sense of academic purity (read snobbery) they wouldn't deign to worry about a trivial "engineering" problem, or they simply don't bother to think creatively about ways to connect to human health. Arabidopsis models for prostate cancer? If you can make a credible case based on conservation -- by all means got for it!

    I also often hear the fetishists engage in pained textual analysis of NIH's mission statement to absolve themselves of choosing research questions based on scientific curiosity, absence of basic understanding AND some reasonable chance of impacting disease, any disease, even just one frackin' disease. You can actually have it all, if you choose wisely.

    Take for example the 7,000 rare genetic diseases. Each one is a basic science puzzle with a clearly defined translational endpoint -- a cure. And in most cases the discovery processes yields unexpected connections. Take the case of one of the genes (NPC1) responsible for Niemann Pick, which was shown to be involved of all things with Ebola virus resistance!

    I think the deeper problem is between the culture of NIH vs NSF. If basic research must be put in one bin, and translational research in another, then at least strictly formalize that at the agency level, and build smarter conduits between the two. I actually don't like the idea of separation, because aside from theoretical mathematics, I think there are ways to connect any curiosity-driven biological research question with some practical deliverable, though the length and windiness of the intervening path will vary from question to question.

    But as Jim Woodgett so piquantly put it, basic research fetishists should stop whining and start communicating.

  • toto@club-med.so says:

    "And, you know, just "sitting and thinking, *about other people's data*!"

    AKA every theorist ever? See also: Kepler, Newton, Einstein...

  • AcademicLurker says:

    Where do you folks work that you encounter all these basic research purists who are proud that their work has no foreseeable applications?

    I'm all in favor of basic research and work in a pretty "basic" field most of the time, but I can't say I've met any of these.*

    *Although I do recall being told the story, possibly apocryphal, in grad school that back in the 40s or 50s one of the pioneers of nuclear magnetic resonance said that he particularly liked working on it because it was pure physics and would never have practical applications...

  • miko says:

    I have never me this "basic research fetishist" who is disdainful of their work ever having applications, and think if it does exist it is so rare that it is a straw man in the context of any discussion about basic/applied. I think what many basic research scientists would say is that we should not all work toward solving particular clinical/applied problems (though many of us should), because often novel discoveries and tools (GFP, RNAi, transposons, and on and on) are not found because we are looking for them, but because we are just trying to figure out how living things work. So we should keep doing that, right? If I've lost you already, I don't know what to say.

    This is basically the opposite of saying that applied research is somehow lesser, it is saying that we should be doing a lot of basic research in order to find new things to feed to applied research and maybe one day translate into something useful, and we shouldn't presume that we know what those things are in advance.

    I also can't believe that there is any real controversy over whether the NIH's uber-successful model of funding a balanced mix of basic and applied research meets its clearly-stated mission. What is informative here is that both "sides" of this false dichotomy (you would find as many people who criticize Ethan's approach for being pie-in-the-sky basic research wackaloonery as you would those saying he's pushing a "basic" model organism to far toward applied research) feel put upon/denigrated/deprioritized by the other. Obviously, this is only happening because money/jobs are tight, so I conclude that it is a debate without any interesting principled content, just more of what DM would call "do it to Julia"-ism.

    We shouldn't realign our funding principles because money is tight, we all tighten our belts and take the pain. Funding priorities are weird. I don't think it's controversial that if half the money spent on poking weird cancer lines in petri dishes went to cancer prevention, education, and public health, it would have a bigger impact. That just happens to be politically hard in the US, where everyone loves money spent on magic beans that will someday cure cancer but no one wants to be told what to do.

  • DrugMonkey says:

    I have met many of the basic research fetishists miko.

  • miko says:

    OK...who? Where? Is this just hallway/conference talk? Study section?

    "Just because we should want to know the answer" and "know the mind of god" type bullshit is something I've heard for a lot of physics, but I've literally never heard a biologist use anything like this as a sole justification in any context. And I'm including here evolutionary biologists, ecologists, plant people, what have you.

  • Busy says:

    miko, most of those comments are made informally, though a few have appeared in print and more can be found in science blogs. It has been documented e.g.

    A US biologist noted that:

    "The elitism of basic science still hangs around. There’s still a lot of people, mainly older people, who still look on industrial collaborations as being slightly tainted and dirty, and it’s ‘prostitution’ to do applied research.

    [ http://www.oecd.org/science/sci-tech/2674369.pdf‎ ]

    and

    A UK physicist supported this point, saying that some of the research council committees “still think it’s undignified to do anything which is useful”.

    This attitude seems more prevalent in Math/Physics/Computer Science than in other sciences but it can be found across the board.

    Observe that the mere term "pure science" used by some as a synonym for basic research is already highly loaded, while term "basic science" (basic in the sense of foundational) is rather descriptive and more value neutral.

    I should annotate here that I'm in full support of people who do basic science (I've done some myself). It's the holier-than-thou attitude of some which I find objectionable. But if you choose to do pie in the sky research, one should naturally expect lower levels of support than say, if one is chasing a promising treatment for some type of cancer.

  • miko says:

    I would love to hear a real-life story of a biological/biomedical scientist being disadvantaged by wanting to cure a disease or otherwise contribute something useful to the world.

    Maybe this is generational. I never talk to anyone over 60, for example.

  • miko says:

    "Sticks and stones" people. Maybe I'm thicker skinned because I work in a routinely-dismissed non-mammalian organism. But if it hurts your feelings that some weird snob things your research is dumb, my advice is to work through it.

  • drugmonkey says:

    It matters when they are senior members of your department deciding on your tenure or senior members of your field who were requested to submit letters for your tenure file, miko.

  • miko says:

    And I got triaged in large part based on a reviewer who thought that none of the work ever done in my model system had any health relevance.

    Things are tough all over.

  • AcademicLurker says:

    It matters when they are senior members of your department deciding on your tenure or senior members of your field who were requested to submit letters for your tenure file

    Are people really getting denied tenure because their research is too relevant to human health?

  • drugmonkey says:

    none of the work ever done in my model system had any health relevance.

    does it?

    Are people really getting denied tenure because their research is too relevant to human health?

    People are denied tenure all the time because of subjective views on how cutting-edge or impactful or cool it is. If there are those who think only the most basic of research is awesome (and there are) then the answer to your question is yes.

  • miko says:

    "If there are those who think only the most basic of research is awesome (and there are) then the answer to your question is yes."

    Seems like something that would come up at the "fit" discussion during hiring. I cannot believe that any department that would hire someone who does applied research would then fire them for doing so.

  • miko says:

    "does it?"

    Definitely not. Just like corn, squid, flies, slugs, mustard plants. I'm stamp collecting, just trying to catalog the glory of nature.

  • Busy says:

    I cannot believe

    You are rejecting the evidence, miko, simply because it doesn't fit you model of the "world as I want it to be" (TM) nor the "circle I move in".

    This reminds me of some of my academic friends who move in fairly progressive circles. They sometimes declare that there is no racism in America since they haven't seen any lately. From your comments, it is clear you move within a subfield in which applied research is valued, good for you. Some of us aren't that lucky.

    In fact in my field the C/N/S equivalents belong to the "pure science is the only one that counts"-types, which means people who do pure science have way more glamorous CVs than comparable quality researchers with a more applied bend.

  • miko says:

    So your applied research, published in Science, would be counted as less valuable than someone's basic research published in Science? I think you might have misidentified the source of the snobbery here.

    And, no, I'm not rejecting evidence, I'm waiting for it.

  • Busy says:

    So your applied research, published in Science, would be counted as less valuable than someone's basic research published in Science?

    That is not what I said. The C/N/S reviewers are of the "basic science is better" types, which means they favor those articles for acceptance over comparable quality applied articles. Is not that the applied article counts less, it's that there are less of them.

    And, no, I'm not rejecting evidence, I'm waiting for it.

    Already gave you a link to an OECD study, you just jumped over it because it didn't fit your pet model.

    It is now *your* turn to present any evidence to the contrary, outside of your inane "me and my friends don't do it".

  • Busy says:

    The C/N/S reviewers

    meant to say: The C/N/S-equivalents reviewers

  • Dr. Noncoding Arenay says:

    I too have not met a single researcher who scoffed at applications of their research toward a practical problem. But here's an interesting tidbit:

    I had the privilege recently of having a long meeting with Nobel prize recipient Dr. Shimomura (discoverer of GFP) and we got talking about his decades of work leading to the discovery. Interestingly, when asked whether he thought about the practical applications of GFP or Luciferin he said that he was not bothered about the applications of GFP or whether it could be developed into something useful. He just wanted to understand how luminous marine organisms got that luminosity from a purely fundamental point of view. I should mention though that he did not at all scoff at practical applications, in fact he was thrilled and amused by the numerous applications of his discoveries over the years. It just wasn't of interest to him to pursue practical applications.

    Was this work useless and should it not have been funded if Dr. Shimomura would not have expressed interest in developing a practical application (not directly health related in this case, but still a real world application)? It was as useful as work done by later researchers who developed GFP into its current state of practical applicability. I think it takes a healthy mix of "fundamentalist" and "practicalist" approaches to really get to the bottom of a problem.

  • miko says:

    "you just jumped over it because it didn't fit your pet model."

    No, I ignored it because it said "HTTP Error 404 Not Found"

    re: C/N/S I don't believe they favor basic research, maybe we're differing on definitions? e.g. I see anything about human stem cells, like the one Cell had such a boner over that they published it without looking at the figures, as being applied research.

    I don't have evidence because:
    - I don't think basic/applied are coherent categories
    - My argument is that there are people who stupidly talk shit about both, and being perceived as "pure" or "applied" can cut both ways in different situations

    I'm arguing the absence of a special difference. You are making the positive claim that "applied" researchers suffer career/funding disadvantages. I think that's bullshit and requires more evidence than a negative claim.

  • Busy says:

    No, I ignored it because it said "HTTP Error 404 Not Found"

    That's your excuse? If you cared about evidence you could have easily googled the quotes (right click on them) and link number one is the reference I gave.

    - My argument is that there are people who stupidly talk shit about both, and being perceived as "pure" or "applied" can cut both ways in different situations

    This is not what you said, but I guess this is as close as we will get you to admitting that you were wrong, so I'll take the "there is evil on both sides" as a retraction from your original "I've never met a scientist who does not hope their work some day contributes to improvement of the world."

  • jipkin says:

    I can be a basic research snob at times, if you want some evidence that it's out there.

    Although maybe I'm not who you want because I don't really think basic is better than applied or that function is better than disease (science is science), but I don't really want to go through all the trouble of figuring out exactly how my work on leech neuroanatomy is going to be relevant to understanding brain function in humans (or any other species). So I'll often say that my work has no relevance, because that's easier than playing a speculative connect-the-dots game with the future of scientific research.

    (and, to be fair, I don't think any of our lab's money comes from NIH at the moment so perhaps I don't have to do that kind of justification)

  • miko says:

    "a retraction from your original "I've never met a scientist who does not hope their work some day contributes to improvement of the world.""

    I do not retract that. I never have. But I have been told by you and DM that you have, and I take that at face value. What is it you think I said?

    Vague quotes that "there is an attitude out there among some scientists" does not demonstrate a disadvantage at jobs, publishing, or funding.

    Sorry I can't be bothered to track down your broken links.

    This weeks Science papers by field:
    *HIV immunity
    Geology
    *Climate change
    Astrophysics
    *Materials/electronics
    *Materials science
    *Materials science
    *Materials science
    Sensory neurobiology
    Sensory neurobiology
    *Congenital asplenia
    Protein folding
    *Malaria
    *Pharmacology
    Biophysics
    *Cell cycle in human cancer cells

    *Things I would be tempted to call "applied"

  • Busy says:

    Sorry I can't be bothered to track down your broken links.

    Of course not, lest they disprove your pet theory.

    This weeks Science papers by field:

    Oh boy, this is a good time to stop.

    Let's recap DM and I say that there are some people who sneer over applied scientists and that my subfield they are dominant at the top (C/N/S-equivalents).

    To "refute" that miko shows that applied work takes place and appears in Science, which has never been in contention. So it refutes exactly nothing.

    As I said I'll stop here until I see something more substantive instead of the wandering between "it doesn't happen to my friends", "there's evil in both sides" and---wait for it---"applied work has appeared in Science".

  • miko says:

    FFS. You said "Is not that the applied article counts less, it's that there are less of them."

    There are not less of them.

    Also, you qualified your comments to say this is the attitude of "some." Fine, but in the context of the discussion, what relevance is the attitude of "some" unless it is hurting people one way or the other. If you're just whining that "some" people devalue the kind of research you do, grow the fuck up. If you're arguing that this devaluation harms the careers of people who do that kind of research more than others, provide evidence.

  • Busy says:

    You said "Is not that the applied article counts less, it's that there are less of them."

    You need to learn to read in full sentences and paragraphs. Here's quote in the full context:

    in my subfield the C/N/S-equivalents publish less of them

    So again, your Science list is irrelevant.

    what relevance is the attitude of "some" unless it is hurting people one way or the other

    DM already pointed out that if any of them serves in a panel or tenure committee it will hurt you, just like, say, a sexist reviewer would if you happen to be a woman. Surely there is nothing controversial in that statement---unless you are already emotionally committed to the opposite conclusion, that is.

  • miko says:

    "My subfield isn't trendy enough to be published in C/N/S" has nothing to do with basic/applied, homes.

    Yep, people have biases. Systematic consistent bias based on gender etc is a serious problem. I don't think systematic consistent bias against applied (or basic) research exists.

  • miko says:

    "in my subfield the C/N/S-equivalents publish less of them"

    Oh, wait! I finally get it! We're only talking about YOU!

    LOL. Not interested.

  • @Miko
    They are granted more common in the physical sciences, particularly in fields like astronomy where applications aren't really possible, but there are plenty of scientists who like to say publicly that science is "really" about understanding the universe for its own sake and any applications that result from it are just side benefits and shouldn't be the goal. Carl Sagan was this type, for example. I always wonder what they put in their grant applications -- even the NSF, which funds more basic research than the NIH, wants you to justify your research -- do they just put "This research will increase our awe of the universe"?

  • miko says:

    Any examples that aren't from 40 years ago and don't smell like bongwater?

  • Grumble says:

    Should you do science for science's sake, not with any applied goal in mind? Who cares? You can *always* find a way to justify the value of your research because of where it might lead. So the question is irrelevant, at least to any scientist who knows the first thing about writing a grant.

    I think the more important question is whether the incessant demands from the NIH that research be health-relevant leads to stupid research that, had it been focused elsewhere, might have lead to better understanding. For instance, we now have worms and flies drinking ethanol as a model of addiction. (For all I know, they're also not interacting with each other - look, a model of autism. Oh, and look, put a hole in their brains and they start to writhe around - a model of stroke. And so on.) This is bullshit in the extreme. Understanding how a worm does what it does is an admirable goal that will eventually help us to understand and improve human health - but feeding it alcohol and calling it addiction doesn't get us any closer to understanding addiction.

  • drugmonkey says:

    Dude. Fruit flies live on fruit. ripe fruit. fruit that is rotting. and, you know, occasionally being converted to alcohol by [redacted to avoid summoning Rumperlsteinskin]. possibly the one damn thing fruit flies ARE any good for.

  • Should you do science for science's sake, not with any applied goal in mind? Who cares? You can *always* find a way to justify the value of your research because of where it might lead. So the question is irrelevant, at least to any scientist who knows the first thing about writing a grant.

    THANK YOU!!!!!!! All this fucken talk about "applied versus basic" is motherfucken meaningless gibberish. All it ever comes down to is "me versus you".

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