Wednesday, December 7, 2022

Editorial in Support of Curiosity-Driven Research

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, History of Science, Nature of Science

Ed Hessler

I was very pleased to read the editorial "In Praise of Research in Fundamental Biology" (Nature 30 November, 2022). It is about the value of curiosity-driven research in the life sciences. It starts with an example on the evolution of "organisms whose cells contain a membrane-bounded nucleus (eukaryotes) and other (cellular) organelles." This is the domain of life to which humans belong.

It is followed by comments on "microbes that forge a living in the hot waters surrounding undersea vents." These organisms turned out to be immensely useful in the laboratory--yielding enzymes that "are stable at high temperatures and resistant to degradation and have become staples in molecular biology labs and biotechnology companies worldwide." With a reminder that this was not a goal of the original research. (my underline)

Please treat yourself by reading it.

This is the closing paragraph and an important one. "Nature has been publishing curiosity-driven research for more than 150 years, and readers will not need convincing of the work’s value. But we implore colleagues in the wider science ecosystem — the policymakers and those in science-funding agencies who expect to see direct benefits of research investments — to resist the temptation to push for quick returns. We appreciate that pressure to do so will only grow as countries confront economic recession and cost-of-living crises. But, wherever possible, this pressure needs to be resisted. Basic research must be allowed to thrive."

The editorial includes a discussion of the Asgard archaea and you may want more information. The Archaea are a very large group constituting the Earth's microbial diversity. They are the dominant microbes in marine and soil ecosystems. They constitute a superphyllum. Researchers designated "'Asgard,' after the realm of the deities in Norse mythology." 

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