Without even the most basic scientific research, our world as we know it wouldn’t exist. All our advances in industry, academia, medicine, and technology wouldn’t have reached modern heights. It’s the quest for new knowledge and exploration into the unknown that has brought about major innovations like lifesaving medicines and world-changing technology.
In its current state, scientific research can typically be divided into two categories: paid and independent. The line that separates the two lies in the ethics and end goals of the research. To better understand these differences, let’s dissect each form as it pertains to scientific outcomes.
Generally speaking, independent research aims to be free from bias or targeted results. As quoted from the National Science Foundation:
“A worker in basic scientific research is motivated by a driving curiosity about the unknown… Discovery of truth and understanding of nature are his objectives… Basic research is performed without thought of practical ends. It results in general knowledge and understanding of nature and its laws.”
Independent scientific research is a form of study which is not funded by or affiliated with a public institution such as a company, college or university or government-run organization. Though most scientists involved with independent research were, at one time, connected with such entities, they conduct independent research free from the pressures and biases of these outside forces.
Getting to the point of conducting independent research can often be a long, tedious venture. Not only must one have the finances to procure sufficient lab space, but the funds must also be enough to purchase equipment and resources, and pay staff members.
A significant amount of money isn’t the only thing needed to spearhead a research study. It also requires advanced scientific and technical skills, as well as specific personality traits and a set code of ethics that include project management and interpersonal skills along with the ability to be persistent, flexible and confident.
The overwhelming benefit of independent research is that scientists have the ability to conduct bias-free research without a larger entity controlling the flow of the study.
In a paid scientific setting, researchers typically pay test subjects for their involvement in the study. Moreover, in order to discover the benefits certain products or ideas have on a greater population, some studies require the participation of select individuals to face the potential risks and dangers involved in the process.
Perhaps you’ve heard a radio advertisement similar to the following:
Have you taken depression medicines such as Zoloft, Prozac, or Cymbalta in the past twelve months? Are you a healthy adult under the age of 40? If so, we need you! At Smith and Smith Studies, we are looking for qualified individuals like you to participate in a monitored study of a newly designed depression medicine. If you qualify, you will be substantially compensated for your time, effort, and involvement in the study.
Studies such as this are considered paid scientific studies. The biggest benefit of paid research is that scientists are better able to target the exact audience needed for their study. The downfall, however, is that these studies are often driven by a hidden agenda in which scientists are selectively choosing a sample size that will most likely produce favorable results.
There’s also the concern over who is funding the research to begin with. If it is an organization or company that stands to benefit from a certain outcome, then the researchers, staff, and subjects may all feel some level of pressure to reach that outcome.
Simply put, paid research raises the concern that money will cloud the judgement of the test subjects or even the researchers. They might see the promise of profit and use that to make a decision or influence a result contrary what they might otherwise do, even if it’s an unconscious decision.
All in all, both independent and paid research are spurred from the foundations of basic scientific research. Though often difficult to achieve, independent research benefits the idea of freely exploring the vast unknown. Paid research, on the other hand, is typically backed by a larger organization who provides test subjects with compensation that, either intentionally or not, influences research results to some degree.