Unexpected value

August 8, 2013

Your report on assigning a monetary value to blue-skies research is cause for both celebration and concern (“Priceless, but still worth pricing”, News, 11 July): celebration because of the increasing debate about the tracking and measuring of research accountability, and concern over the need for continued innovation in this area.

In the age of austerity, we are all too aware of the budget restrictions facing many research funding organisations, and we also recognise that the move towards monetising research is important in making the strongest case possible for its continued support. 

But we must not allow this to mean we lose sight of the purpose of curiosity-driven research and the innovative thinking that surrounds it. For all the success stories that push the boundaries of our knowledge, there must also be value placed on the results that generate unexpected outcomes: after all, they can still contribute to furthering our understanding. 

The primary concern should not be whether a value should be placed on research. We need to ensure instead that its outcomes (including the effects that may only be felt years later) are measured, tracked and reported so that we can make the case for continued support even more effectively.

Frances Buck
Director, Researchfish

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