Benjamin Peirce Research Professor of Technology and Public Policy, SEAS
U.S. science policy since World War II has in large measure been driven by Vannevar Bush’s famous paper Science—The Endless Frontier. Bush’s separation of research into “basic” and “applied” domains has been enshrined in much of U.S. science and technology policy over the past seven decades, and this false dichotomy has become a barrier to the development of a coherent national innovation policy. Much of the debate centers on the appropriate federal role in innovation. Bush argued successfully that funding basic research was a necessary role for government, with the implication that applied research should be left to the auspices of markets. However, the original distinction does not reflect what actually happens in research, and its narrow focus on the stated goals of an individual research project prevents us from taking a more productive holistic view of the research enterprise.
Narayanamurti, Venkatesh, Tolu Odumosu, and Lee Vinsel. "RIP: The Basic/Applied Research Dichotomy." Issues in Science and Technology XXIX.2 (Winter 2013).