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Sunday, July 4, 1999

University Costs and Basic Research

Pubished: New York Times Magazine

Your writer argues that 80 percent of basic research is "idle, tenure earning junk with little or no social value." Ouch!
He may be right as far as outcomes are concerned, but he is only right in hindsight. Ex ante, we cannot distinguish between the 20 percent that leads to insight and the 80 percent that languishes in academic journals. The very essence of basic research is its unpredictability. To generate the gold, we have to put up with the dross as byproduct.