Are the concepts basic research, applied research and experimental development still useful? An empirical investigation among Norwegian academics26 jan 2011
Categorisations of research have existed for a long time and have in particular been influential since the first international R&D statistics manual was developed. However, the definitions and categorisations have come under increasing pressure. Scientists and policy-makers alike have claimed that the distinction between basic research, applied research and experimental development is increasingly irrelevant and based on misconceptions about modern knowledge production. Despite the debate there is little empirical analysis of these issues. This article fills a major gap in the literature by addressing research classifications from an empirical point of view, using two surveys among academic staff in Norwegian universities. Even though a majority of academic staff members are able to use the research categories when describing own activities, most carry out a seemingly complex mix of different R&D. This has important implications for policy and for statistical and evaluative analysis of research work.