Acquisition of New Knowledge or “Research”

WHen talking about the work we do in philanthropy we often say we are investing in the acquisition of new knowledge and its responsible application. In other words, research and scholarship. But is knowledge acquistion and research necessarily the same thing? Unfortunately, in some disciplinary arenas research can become so derivative that it can be successfully argued that the findings are no longer contributing new knowledge. In other arenas the research directions have become so wacky and disconnected from any of the constraints of reality that it is also questionable as to the whether the findings constitute “knowledge.” There is also research where the findings may or may not represent new knowledge but the interpretation of the findings or the explanations attached to them represent anything but. I hope philanthropic investors are becoming increasingly savvy at parsing the distinctions made above. Too often the academic research enterprise is more about the packaging of products than it is about contributing to deep and real knowledge about the natural world.

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