Valuable vintage papers on merits of "mundane science" in pursuing sustainable development
Two priceless papers on undervalued “applied” science, co-authored by Dan Kammen in the ’90s, still resonate today: “Science and Engineering Research That Values the Planet" (with Arne Jacobson) and "The Virtues of Mundane Science" (with Michael Dove). Here’s the conclusion of the "mundane" paper:
"There are a number of ways to give such initiatives a larger role in research and policy decisions. These include giving much more support to academic-industry and academic-practitioner partnerships; extending academic boundaries to encompass the entire range of human-environment interactions; breaking down the often antagonistic division between development professionals and academia; instituting a more open review process for development publications, projects, and institutions; removing the barrier between development planners and the intended beneficiaries or local populations; and addressing the frequently counterproductive tension between pure and applied research. The primary obstacles to implementing these proposals are cultural and institutional, not scientific. Expanding our commitment to mundane science requires that we overcome a Catch-22, however: Mundane issues generate little interest until a crisis emerges, at which point a solution is expected at once because the problem appears to be so simple. Unless we overcome the bias against mundane science, we will be wedded to shortsighted, partial solutions to emerging issues in development and the environment. Serious research requires a commitment to sustained periods of training, preparation, and support, which mundane science rarely receives. A valuable principle to use in the design and evaluation of sustainable development initiatives is that of use-inspired basic research, which – however basic the science involved – has a clear focus on applications…."