What information does your scientific work produce, and what application can be made of it?

These questions are for the practicing1 scientists here, posed by a non-scientist2:

  1. What information does your work produce, and how is it applied out in the world?
  2. As far as you are aware, how do that information and application differ from scientific inquiry tied to some theological or apologetic perspective?
    (Feel free to bend these questions as you see fit. I’d prefer them to be more like guides, rather than tools for data-collection.)

Often, science-related discussions in the Forum revolve around the rightness or wrongness of perspective that leads to methods, without any view of the end result. While ends don’t justify means in every area of action, they can certainly help us evaluate our assumptions.

The purpose of my post is to provide scientists a place to explore “out loud” the relationship between the ends and the assumptions under which they were achieved.

2Thanks to @jammycakes for his feedback in the development of this post.

I have been involved in SARS-CoV-2 sequencing, and have begun a journey into bioinformatics in order to analyze a lot of the sequence data we and others have produced.

In the past I have worked on drug studies that have directly led to changes in standard of care for different bacterial infections. Along those same lines, I have also worked on characterizing bacterial pathogens which didn’t have any direct application to medicine.

I’m not sure if the following is exactly what you are asking about, but here goes . . .

In the scientific community there are two pools of research: translational and basic science research. Translational research should produce knowledge that can be directly applied in some way, such as research on a new drug or a new medical treatment. Basic science research is more about answering unsolved problems that may not have an immediate application, but such research often does lead to new applications further down the road.

Since grant money is limited there can be some friction between those two general groups of research. The data from the James Webb telescope probably won’t have any direct application in society, but is it still worth doing? Is it worth the money and effort to learn about the fundamental characteristics of our universe? I certainly think so.

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1: data on what mollusks are present in the Waccamaw Formation
2: data on how abundant they are
3: data on non-mollusks in the Waccamaw Formation
4: information derived from the above, like extinction rates
5: gene sequence and phylogenetic data on certain gastropods
6: data entered through citizen science projects, like eBird.

Other than 6 it isn’t. I haven’t published it yet, beyond abstracts and two ISEF projects. 6 is used by various groups for conservation, tracking bird migration, and the like.

It is raw data, for one. The statement “[species name] is present in the Waccamaw Formation” really doesn’t give much to theology or apologetics. Nor does the phylogenetic data, since it is merely “this tree shows what arrangement has the fewest changes”.

Underlying assumptions (for 1-4): index fossil and lithology-based stratigraphy works (which is an observation that others have made); and fossil remains can be accurately identified.

(for 5): genetic sequences can be used for phylogenetic studies, genes can be sequenced and identified using standard methods.

Ends: what stuff is here?

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Thanks for sharing about your research!
Are you aware of any similar research being done by apologists as part of the development or their apologetics. If so, are you aware of any differences in approach to data-gathering between your work and theirs?
OR (maybe: also) If you are aware, would the differences in your purpose and assumptions in your work be more apparent in the interpretation of the data?

Thanks for sharing about your research work.
Your explanation of the difference between translational and basic science research is interesting. I see a similar difference in my profession between the approach to collection development in public and research libraries. I deal often with the question about “all this old stuff” we have in the library and what purpose it could serve. We won’t know until someone needs it for their research, and when they do, we’ll have it.

No. I am aware of about 20-30 people globally doing similar research.

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