Realizing Basic Research in Applied Environmental Research Projects
- J. Bouma *
Political pressure is exerted in many countries to focus agricultural and environmental research on market-driven applications, rather than on basic research. This can become a real problem because our expertise needs to be continuously fed with new ideas originating from basic research. Rather than rigidly oppose the trend, we advocate research procedures where applied and basic research logically fit together in so-called research chains. More time should be spent in any project on defining the most efficient research chain in close interaction with stakeholders, comparing relatively simple (and inexpensive) procedures using expert knowledge with more complicated (and expensive) ones that may include basic research using sophisticated methodology. Research chains are illustrated for case studies on soil acidification and precision agriculture, while chains are described for organic farming. Basic research is defined differently and more effectively when it is part of a research chain, as compared with independent formulation. Information technology plays an increasingly important role in the evolving interactive research paradigm where the former linear research model is replaced by the hourglass model, which requires an interdisciplinary research approach and defines basic research on issues where existing knowledge is clearly inadequate. Application of simulation modeling and geostatistics allows expression in terms of risks that threshold values of sustainability indicators are exceeded. Regulators have the prime responsibility to decide which risks are acceptable. Researchers offer options rather than judgements. In addition to realizing research chains including basic research, independent funding for basic research in promising future areas of work is necessary as well.
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