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Hi, this is Kate from Minute Earth.
For baby rats, there’s nothing like a massage.
No…not that kind.
When licked with their mom’s soft tongue
or massaged by a researcher’s soft brush
their enzyme levels spike, their growth hormones rise,
To discover this heartwarming bit of information,
researchers drew from a quarter million dollar grant
from the National Institutes of Health,
in other words, public tax dollars.
No matter how much you like rodents,
you might question whether this was a good use of public money.
But it was actually a great economic investment.
Fast forward a few decades…
the US was spending billions each year caring for premature babies.
Researchers recalled how massage had helped baby rats thrive
and they decided to try similar techniqueson the babies.
They grew faster, their immune systems improved,
and they were discharged an average of six days earlier.
‘Preterm infant massage’ is
now common in intensive care units nationwide.
An investment of less than $250,000
now saves the US five billion dollars in healthcare costs each year.
not to mention lots of tiny lives.
This outcome wasn’t a given.
The rat massage study, like all so-called ‘basic research’,
thought to understand how the world works,
with no clear applications, or payoffs, in mind.
And while there are MANY good reasons to do science
other than the hope of a return on investment
time and time again, basic research does end up paying off.
The Human Genome Project cost the US government more than $5 billion,
but thanks to its applications in all sorts of industries,
it has had an estimated trillion plus dollars of economic impact.
That’s more than 178 dollars for every initial dollar spent.
Then there’s Fermat and his Little Theorem, a beautiful piece of pure mathematics
describing certain conditions of prime numbers.
This probably-very-inexpensive work
enabled the entire field of data encryption,
now a 3-billion-dollar-a-year industry.
But we cherry-picked these examples;
some basic research must have minimal returns on investment,
or none at all…right?
Well, we can’t be sure,
mostly because what happens between ‘eureka!’ and payoff
Take the scientist who used electromagnets to levitate frogs
which seemed like a non-profitable dead end.
But this kind of creative thinking eventually resulted in him developing graphene,
A Nobel Prize-winning material with tons of applications
and a 42 million dollar market in 2017.
And sometimes, like in the case of Fermat’s Little Theorem,
it’s a matter of time. It took 300 years to see the theorem’s payoff.
have estimated the return on investment for basic research,
and calculated that overall, we get back what we invest
结果显示 总的来讲 基础研究除了能回本
plus an additional 20 to 60 percent a year.
That is a big range, because the calculations
depend on which social benefits economists factor in,
like the employment gained by students and researchers
or simply the advantage of knowing more stuff
and how we assign values to those benefits.
Yet even the most conservative estimates suggest that overall,
basic research more than pays for itself,
and can even outperform more traditional investments.
But the thing about basic research is that
these dividends rarely go back to the lab that did the work
or whoever funded it,
so private, profit-seeking firms
are not likely to invest heavily in the basic-est basic research.
And that means if we want to continue
reaping the economic benefits of basic research
as well as all the other amazing stuff it makes possible,
taxpayers will have to have a hand in the process.
Doing basic research would be impossible without taxpayers’ support,
and making Minute Earth would be impossible without the support of our partners,
like NordVPN which sponsored this video.
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