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Basic research (also called pure research, fundamental research, and discovery research) is a systematic study directed toward greater knowledge or understanding of the fundamental aspects of phenomena. Basic research is executed without thought of a practical end goal, without specific applications or products in mind.
Basic research has been described as arising out of curiosity. Basic research is contrasted with applied research, which is research focused on a particular problem or application. Basic research lays the foundation for advancements in knowledge that lead to applied gains later on, occasionally as a result of unexpected discoveries.
The International Council for Science, in a December 2004 position statement, urged support for and adequate public investment in basic research, stating that basic science, innovation, and development are intertwined.
In the United States, pure research is mainly carried out by universities and institutes financed by the government. However, in the 2010s, as appropriations for government research have decreased or remained stagnate, funding by wealthy entrepreneurs has emerged as a significant source of support.
Basic research advances fundamental knowledge about the world. It focuses on refuting or supporting theories that explain observed phenomena. Pure research is the source of most new scientific ideas and ways of thinking about the world. It can be exploratory, descriptive, or explanatory; however, explanatory research is the most common.
Basic research generates new ideas, principles, and theories, which may not be immediately utilized but nonetheless form the basis of progress and development in different fields. Today's computers, for example, could not exist without research in pure mathematics conducted over a century ago, for which there was no known practical application at the time. Basic research rarely helps practitioners directly with their everyday concerns; nevertheless, it stimulates new ways of thinking that have the potential to revolutionize and dramatically improve how practitioners deal with a problem in the future.
Basic versus applied science
Applied science focuses on the development of technology and techniques. In contrast, basic science develops scientific knowledge and predictions, principally in natural sciences but also in other empirical sciences, which are used as the scientific foundation for applied science. Basic science develops and establishes information to predict phenomena and perhaps to understand nature, whereas applied science uses portions of basic science to develop interventions via technology or technique to alter events or outcomes. Applied and basic sciences can interface closely in research and development.
A distinction can be made between basic science and disciplines such as medicine and technology. They can be grouped as STM (science, technology & medicine) or STS (science, technology & society). These groups are interrelated and influence each other, although they may differ in the specifics such as methods and standards.
"Basic science" or "fundamental science" may also refer to physics. In philosophy of science, the branches of science are often described such that fundamental physics is the foundation underlying the others, called special sciences, that rest upon and in principle are derivable from and reducible to fundamental physics. In a conceived unity of science, the special sciences investigate domains whose entities and laws emerge from the domain of the idealized fundamental physics. Basic science may also be used to refer to the natural sciences in general, as compared to the social sciences and applied sciences.
Whereas fundamental physics seeks laws of universal regularity, special sciences usually include ceteris paribus laws, predictively accurate to high probability in "normal conditions" or with "all else equal", but having exceptions. Although exceptionless, chemistry's laws were presumably reduced to fundamental physics—to quantum mechanics and then quantum electrodynamics—and so chemistry, presumed to emerge, is a special science. Bridging physical sciences to biological sciences via biochemistry, and influencing sciences generally, chemistry has been viewed as the central science.
- "What is basic research?" (PDF). National Science Foundation. Retrieved 2014-05-31.
Basic research is performed without thought of practical ends. It results in general knowledge and understanding of nature and its laws.
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