Increasing both the public health potential of basic research and the scientist satisfaction. An international survey of bio-scientists

Giorgio Scita, Carmen Sorrentino, Andrea Boggio, Stefano Confalonieri, David Hemenway, Andrea Ballabeni

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Basic scientific research generates knowledge that has intrinsic value which is independent of future applications. Basic research may also lead to practical benefits, such as a new drug or diagnostic method. Building on our previous study of basic biomedical and biological researchers at Harvard, we present findings from a new survey of similar scientists from three countries. The goal of this study was to design policies to enhance both the public health potential and the work satisfaction and test scientists' attitudes towards these factors. The present survey asked about the scientists' motivations, goals and perspectives along with their attitudes concerning policies designed to increase both the practical (i.e. public health) benefits of basic research as well as their own personal satisfaction. Close to 900 basic investigators responded to the survey; results corroborate the main findings from the previous survey of Harvard scientists. In addition, we find that most bioscientists disfavor present policies that require a discussion of the public health potential of their proposals in grants but generally favor softer policies aimed at increasing the quality of work and the potential practical benefits of basic research. In particular, bioscientists are generally supportive of those policies entailing the organization of more meetings between scientists and the general public, the organization of more academic discussion about the role of scientists in the society, and the implementation of a "basic bibliography" for each new approved drug.

Original languageEnglish
Article number56
Publication statusPublished - 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)
  • Pharmacology, Toxicology and Pharmaceutics(all)


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