Steve Bunk's recent essay on curiosity and the scientific method1 was both enlightening and thought-provoking. Perhaps we can gain further insight on this issue from an examination of the grant-writing process.

For years, scientists have had to convince their peers and the public that a proposed research plan would ultimately have some value. Our objective is to prove the underlying utility of the basic research by suggesting a likely and practical application of the knowledge we will acquire. The public, then, becomes a shareholder in our scientific endeavors: Satisfactory dividends must be produced to maintain continued support for our work. The use of business terms seems appropriate to describe this situation, and the expectation that some benefit to society should come from publicly funded work is perfectly fair.

However, I believe that Mr. Bunk's central thesis that we are observing science in crisis is quite correct. The capitalistic approach...

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