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Re: [ontolog-forum] The costs and benefits of research

To: "'[ontolog-forum] '" <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: Matthew West <dr.matthew.west@xxxxxxxxx>
Date: Tue, 2 Jun 2009 12:02:32 +0100
Message-id: <4a2506d3.0f975e0a.38f5.fffffd32@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Dear Pat,    (01)

> [MW] That is what I call non-commercial use above. Frankly until you
> can
> show that there are uses that give significant benefits, you have not
> actually done anything  useful (though it may be interesting)
> [PC] That's a harsh indictment of basic research.      (02)

[MW] I don't think so. I don't think it is the purpose of basic research to
be directly useful (and I have no problem with basic research being done).
But I don't think something is "useful" until there are real practical uses
that have an economic benefit.    (03)

> The NSF spends over
> 4
> billion per year on research that does not propose to have direct
> utility,
> and other agencies even more.  And some of those non-useful projects
> have
> budgets well over $30M.
> Do you think that the fundamental structure of symbolic information is
> a
> less interesting research topic than, say, the rate of expansion of the
> universe or the effective range of the strong nuclear force?  I don't,
> and I
> think it has a lot more potential practical benefit.  The same kind of
> arguments were given even against the project to find the structure of
> the
> human genome, which was a tough sell among biomedical scientists who
> were
> afraid it would reduce funding for their own projects.    (04)

[MW] No, I'm quite happy that the sorts of things you propose are suitable
for research. I just would not expect commercial benefits from the work. If
it was my money I would not give you $30m, but I would not hesitate to give
say $10m.
> . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
> But then, Matthew relents and comes down on the side of the angels:
> [JS] >> I was thinking about Cyc and EDR, which had large ontologies
> and
> > couldn't recover their research expenses.
> [MW] > If it is really a research project then I don't see that it
> should
> have to recover its research expenses. Research projects are about
> reducing
> the risk of future actions, rather than a straight ROI, and you might
> well
> be able to argue that these projects have done that.    (05)

[MW] Which is entirely consistent with research being non-commercial.    (06)

Regards    (07)

Matthew West                            
Information  Junction
Tel: +44 560 302 3685
Mobile: +44 750 3385279
http://www.matthew-west.org.uk/    (08)

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