The landscape of science is always shifting and in the last ten years we’ve seen a significant change brought by revolutionary discoveries like the powerful induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC) and CRISPR/Cas9 technologies. Since then scientific research – and the bodies that fund it – seem to have gravitated towards shorter-term goals focussing on translational studies. Is this the end of basic research then?
If you look closely at the roots of the great discoveries we’ve seen over the last two centuries, the answer is self-evident: basic research remains crucial. Just as you can’t start building a house from the roof downwards, all research needs a basic foundation — and science can’t survive without it. Sadly, the unglamorous daily grind that underlies even the most exciting results is lost on the general public, who only get to see the final shiny “breakthrough.”
By way of remedy, PLOS Biology has decided to launch a new PLOS article type and Collection – the second one this month! – called “Research Matters”. Inspired by the Collection in PLOS Pathogens, we’ve asked leaders across biology to tell us why their research matters and why basic research is the main engine that moves science forward.
The first piece comes from our Editorial Board Member Michael Laub (MIT). His lab explores how very simple organisms like bacteria sense the world around them. His team have elucidated pathways that allow bacteria to translate external stimuli into intracellular signals, triggering the right decisions for survival in a hostile environment. Laub argues that this basic research may one day inform the design of effective drugs that disrupt pathogens or guide cancer treatment.
We hope this piece serves as a taster of the broad range of articles that you’ll be able to read in the coming months. We have many more wonderful pieces to come. Stay tuned!