Take home exam number 3! Here is one of my responses....
Much of the information known today about biology comes from scientists craving a deeper understanding of the world around us and the fundamental workings of living things. Basic research that started with curiosity and aimed at understanding has led to the discovery of DNA structure, the central dogma, genetics, regulatory mechanisms and much, much more. Unfortunately today, many politicians and grant providers believe that the slow rate of successful applications to medical diagnosis and therapy is due to a lack of willingness to focus solely on human health and are trying to narrow the focus of scientific research to "translational research" that can be directly applied to human health. However, basic research is essential to continue growing our fundamental base of knowledge. History shows that our solid scientific foundation is the result of the work done by thousands of basic scientists whose biggest goal was to understand the fundamental workings of living things.
There are many reasons basic scientific research is important. One reason is that it helps identify the universal aspects of life but also helps identify where things are different. When universal aspects are discovered it gives us a basis for developing theories and laws that we can then apply to other various systems. For example fly research has led to the discovery of many tool box genes/ proteins and a deeper understanding of regulatory mechanisms some of which can also be found in other species, including humans. Finding genes and mechanisms that have been conserved throughout evolution can also give us insight to our evolutionary past, help construct phylogeny trees and see how all living things are related. As many historians say "the key to a bright future is understanding the past."
Another reason basic scientific research is important is that it can help us discover, design, and utilize new research methods and tools. Many methods we use today were designed conducting basic scientific research, examples being transformation, vectors, mutational analysis, and more. Studying different animal systems that can be applied to humans is also very important because for some studies it would be unethical to perform the treatments on humans. For developmental studies specifically it is difficult to work with humans because of the long gestation period as well, therefore its logical to study other "model" organisms.
Lastly, basic scientific research may contribute to advances in other fields such as food, fishery, pest control, resource management, conservation, and engineering. Science isn't just about finding medical cures, although that is very important, it is also important to understand how the world works around us. By further developing these fields we can improve the standard of life for many.
Overall, basic research is what has built our founding knowledge. If we would like to continue to grow and learn as a scientific community it is important to continuing doing basic scientific research. By doing basic research we will continue to identify aspects of life that have been conserved through evolution, develop laws and theories that can be applied to various systems, develop new scientific methods, and contribute to advancement in other fields aside from medicine. Rather than trying to investigate very specific aspects of certain diseases and illnesses we should be broadening our scope and trying to understand general mechanisms and then eventually "the cures" will present themselves.