Two defenses of research on useless knowledge

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In an era of intense, globalized economic competition and massive government debt, can we afford fundamental scientific research? Lately, the answer seems to be “not really.” Companies that once supported R&D have cut back dramatically, and the US government hasn’t kept pace with inflation when it comes to funding most research. In the last 50 years, the US’ spending on research has gone from over two percent of the GDP to 0.8 percent. And there’s intense pressure to make sure the research that’s still funded has practical applications, from the National Institute of Health’s translational research programs to Lamar Smith’s attempt to ensure that National Science Foundation only funds research that boosts “national health, prosperity, or welfare.”

is available from Princeton University Press.

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