Living the dream

When I first heard about the four quadrants of science, I was instantly captivated by the clarity with which three distinct philosophies can be compared and contrasted. There are indeed three different ways of doing relevant science (1, 2, 3 below): the Bohr quadrant (1) amounts to pure science without contemplation of downstream utility, the Edison quadrant (3) pursues empirical science and does not aim to understand the underlying causes, whereas the Pasteur quadrant (2) involves fundamental research with consideration of use. While I have no comment on the remaining quadrant (I am not even going to mark it because no one wants to be associated with this sort of activity), I would argue that almost all of us want to belong to the Pasteur quadrant. Indeed, it appears to be the most meaningful segment that balances utility with fundamental significance. Having said that, time and again important discoveries are made by those researchers who are perfectly happy to have their work associated with either quadrant (1) or (3). Thus, it is somewhat short-sighted to say that we must strive to be in the Pasteur quadrant at all costs and that not being there is a failure…

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4 thoughts on “Living the dream

  1. If that is what you like to think. (Rather than, surviving confined in a narrow container and crawling over each other, for funding and tenure). It is a vicious world in synthetic chemistry, and more so in academia. I would rather take an uncertain start-up industry job – even if I cannot choose the direction of my research projects.

    • so is my mood tonight, and the drinking does not help… I have seen grown men fighting over minuscule funds, about the fume hoods and even over ownership of individual stirplates, while teaching the pre-med students the “orgo” class. Sure, there are people after whom new catalysts and reactions are named but they are a tiny minority.

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