A proper balance: Basic and applied science



The captain of our scientific ship, Frank Press, has recently noted dwindling rations and hungry looks on his crew, while for the most part keeping his telescope trained on the distant horizon (President's Page editorial). I suggest that he is missing some important landscape around him, and the opportunity to acquire food supplies en route.

One must recognize that the crimp in basic research funding has had some positive side effects. Whereas a few years ago basic research carried away the cream of the young scientific crop, and the practical needs of the country rarely saw this talent again, increasing numbers of good scientists have been filtering down to hinterland educational establishments such as our own at South Florida, to public and private applied research organizations, government agencies, and even—mirabile dictu—to regulatory agencies. Some scientists who had their hearts set on name institutions came with chips on their shoulders, but many found to their surprise that they could have a satisfying career spending part of their time doing their thing and another part with things that need doing.