The Auspicious History — and Future — of Basic Science Research

Research scientist Dan Galperin works on Purified Recombinant Zika Enveloped Protein in his laboratory at the Protein Sciences Inc. headquarters in Meriden, Conn., in 2016. (Mike Segar/Reuters)
We should make more long-term investments in undirected research in basic science.

NRPLUS MEMBER ARTICLE W ith every crisis, whether a pandemic or manmade or natural disaster, politicians and pundits invariably get around to calling for a Manhattan Project. This powerful imagery of putting “big science” to work to tackle big challenges comes, of course, from the success of that World War II effort and after that its Cold War derivative, the moonshot Apollo program. The legacy of those organized research enterprises is the very idea that government can marshal scientific and financial resources to solve major societal problems.

Today’s battle against the novel coronavirus has been explicitly analogized to the effort that was required to win

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