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October 22nd, 2009
Robert Langer: UK science would be wrong to focus excessively on applied research
Targeted research programmes, he said, could sometimes be useful, but usually as a means of promoting interdisciplinary collaborations, rather than to ensure progress is made towards a particular scientific goal.
Robert Langer: "Sometimes I've seen targeted things that are valuable not so much because they target something, but because of the fact it gets people focused on working together in new ways. That can be very valuable. The National Cancer Institute in the United States put out a call for proposals for nanotechnology in cancer. I think what was good about that was it got cancer biologists and materials scientists together, and they may not have done that if they hadn't had the opportunity to get that kind of funding.
"I think the value of targeting something like that is very high, but the idea of targeting something that's too specific, I worry about. Everybody succeeds or fails to a certain degree. But if you make something overly focused, if you fail you fail completely, and it's unlikely you're going to make a breakthrough that's going to really change the world."
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