Candid Engineer has a nice post up today concerning the distinction between directly cure-oriented biomedical research and more basic research. The attitude of some of her laboratory colleagues chaps her ass:
So what really bakes my noodle is the often dominating opinion within my lab that the only reason we should be doing science is to get a product into people. And if we don’t get a product into people, then what the hell is the point and we should all be totally depressed about how all of our hard work didn’t amount to jack shit at the end of the day.
Even if you think that the only reason for doing science is to treat people, you should still be in favor of basic research. This is because some of the most important discoveries that end up leading directly to getting shit into people–e.g., the discovery of small non-coding RNAs–are stumbled upon by researchers who weren’t intentionally trying to get shit into people.
If all you do is focus on things that you a priori perceive as likely to lead to getting shit into people, you are without question going to be missing out on a whole fuckload of opportunities to discover shit that will end up in people.