How *useful* is your research


One of my students sent with this link

cos it's not a million miles away from my own research. I was interested in all the comments by the readers - so many say what a waste of everyones time and money this is. What do you think about this? Not this topic in particular, but the whole 'useful to society' thing?

As far as I can see, to the outsider, loads of social sciences research is meaningless, even between disciplines. But does it have value within the community? As a linguist, even this story has a lot of intrinsic interest, but does it justify the resources? I think so, but I can see why others wouldn't agree.

I struggle with this sometimes. Why am I researching what I am researching?


Well why are you studying what you are studying? I don't mean this in a ranty Daily Heil reader fashion, but why do you think it is important (even if the answer is only because you find it interesting)?

I do stuff on divided cities - which everyone thinks is incredibly useful - when actually it is about proving an obscure part of a highly criticised political theory... so in fact its use is secondary to its aim. Not sure if that makes it useful or not!


Well, I understand that *some* research should be useful, or rather have an aim to support/protect society, especially if society pays for it through taxes. But then, I also think that the pursuit of knowledge and understanding in itself should be supported and it is something natural for humans to do (right?!). I think it is shortsighted and inhibits an aspirational, dynamic society if only "useful" research was allowed/financially supported.


My research is on a Latin poet that most people haven't heard of, let alone read. Even many Classicists don't really think he's worth the effort (and sometimes I'm not sure...). Usefulness isn't a concept I can really apply to my work at all! It can only really be considered within the constraints of the discipline and within that I believe it is worthwhile. That frequently doesn't wash in discussions with friends who have never done research or worked in an arts related discipline, especially those who pay tax...!


I just had a look at the daily mail article and responses- I think you need to remember that the research is so watered down for articles like this that the general public don't have a chance of understanding all the complexities of this sort of research, or the implications of it. I am doing research on Alzheimer's disease and virtually everyone I speak to believes that this is worthwhile, mainly because it is in the news a lot at the moment and public awareness of what a horrible disease it is has increased, and most people know someone who has some sort of dementia. But yet when I read articles on dementia research in the Daily Mail a lot of the comments are 'why are they doing this research when they should be finding a cure' or 'this is rubbish, my nanna didn't smoke and she still got dementia' etc. People are clueless as to the scientific basis and the background for most research, and how to interpret the findings or what it actually means in the real world. I wouldn't spend a lot of time worrying about it- so long as you can justify the research and are aware of the implications then I think you just have to ignore the rantings of people who simply have no clue about what you are doing! I should also stop reading daily mail articles I think, they do tend to piss me off! KB