Michael Hochberg and collaborators have published an article in Trends in Ecology and Evolution on the importance of basic science. This paper stems from a symposium sponsored by the Société Française d’Ecologie at INTECOL in August 2013.
Courchamp F., Dunne J., Le Maho Y., May R.M., Thébaud C. & Hochberg M.E. Fundamental Ecology is Fundamental. Trends in Ecology and Evolution DOI 10.1016/j.tree.2014.11.005
The primary reasons for conducting fundamental research are satisfying curiosity, acquiring knowledge, and achieving understanding. Here we develop why we believe it is essential to promote basic ecological research, despite increased impetus for ecologists to conduct and present their research in the light of potential applications. This includes the understanding of our environment, for intellectual, economical, social, and political reasons, and as a major source of innovation. We contend that we should focus less on short-term, objective-driven research and more on creativity and exploratory analyses, quantitatively estimate the benefits of fundamental research for society, and better explain the nature and importance of fundamental ecology to students, politicians, decision makers, and the general public. Our perspective and underlying arguments should also apply to evolutionary biology and to many of the other biological and physical sciences.