Curiosity and the Scientific Method

Graphic: Cathleen Heard The amazing strides forward in biomedical research over the past two decades, led by an American triumvirate of academia, industry, and government, are not without accompanying concerns. One such worry is that curiosity could become an endangered justification for the conduct of life science. Basking in the sun of its results, biomedical research in particular may risk becoming too results-oriented. Increasingly, universities and teaching hospitals are turning to private

Steve Bunk
Apr 2, 2000

Graphic: Cathleen Heard


The amazing strides forward in biomedical research over the past two decades, led by an American triumvirate of academia, industry, and government, are not without accompanying concerns. One such worry is that curiosity could become an endangered justification for the conduct of life science. Basking in the sun of its results, biomedical research in particular may risk becoming too results-oriented. Increasingly, universities and teaching hospitals are turning to private funding from companies eager to capitalize quickly on research. Could it be that an overemphasis on applied science--especially through the development of patentable technologies and other profit-making arrangements between academia and industry--might affect the very nature of the scientific method?

Surely, curiosity itself is not endangered. Then why should anyone worry that an apparently subtle shift in the motivation of research might change how science is done? And even if the scientific method were altered, what would be...