ISSUE-104

Claim: Researchers should not limit their investigations to only those areas in which they expect to discover something that has an immediate, practical application.

Reason: It is impossible to predict the outcome of a line of research with any certainty.


Write a response in which you discuss the extent to which you agree or disagree with the claim and the reason on which that claim is based.


Since it is not possible to predict the certainty of the results of scientific research, it is natural that we should focus our scientific research on the kind of applications that will yield immediate benefits. But is that really the case?


First of all, we should acknowledge that there are scientific findings that are really hard to predict, and this is because mankind's current science has not yet developed to the point where it can predict anything. Specifically, it is the case that mankind has not yet studied a certain field thoroughly, that many phenomena cannot be explained by existing theories, and that many of the desired results have no way to be replicated through a controlled process. This is extremely evident in the development of pharmaceuticals. The development of any drug is directed towards a specific goal, such as the treatment of heart disease or a particular cancer. However, because the mechanisms of such diseases are not yet well understood by scientists, or even if the mechanisms and treatments are well understood, the therapeutic chemicals themselves are difficult to synthesize, or the principles of synthesis are not yet understood, drug development companies are forced to invest in trial and error in research and development.


However, despite the unpredictability of many scientific studies, it must be said that many great discoveries in real life have been made by chance. The discovery of penicillin, for example, came from a spoiled petri dish; 3M Post-it notes came from a poor quality superglue; and Viagra itself was invented to treat heart disease, but is now used for other purposes. So while the results of many scientific studies cannot be predicted, we should still respect the scientific process.


Some people still insist that since much of the results of scientific research are unpredictable, one's investment in science should be limited to those areas where it can have immediate application. This is understandable. First of all, since society's resources are limited and there are many problems that need to be solved by science and technology, it is only natural that people would want to invest their limited resources in areas that are urgent and necessary. For example, compared to space exploration, solving air pollution is a more urgent matter. Therefore, there is much more national research and development on air pollution than on space exploration, and there are far more universities offering environmental programs than astronomy programs. Secondly, all investments are made with the expectation that they will produce a reasonable return, both for individual investments and for government investments in research. The government invests in scientific research and development that can be beneficial, the proceeds of which can be used in other public areas. Since a large amount of investment is focused on areas that produce significant results, it is natural for scientific researchers to tend to focus their research in those areas.


However, while it is perfectly realistic to focus research on areas that can be put to good use, it is destructive to the long-term development of science and society. When a society's scientific research is geared towards meeting the needs of the present, we can be sure that the society has no future. Let's take the UAE as an example. The UAE is an oil-rich country, and if scientific research in this country is focused on solving current problems, then UAE scientists should be researching how to extract oil efficiently and how to use it. But there will come a time when oil resources will run out, and if the UAE's scientific research is only about the use of oil, then the day will come when the resources run out, or when the world will no longer be dependent on oil, and that will be the end of the UAE. The leaders of the UAE are acutely aware of this, and have set up a national sovereign fund to invest in high technology, paving the way for the long-term development of the country.


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