GRE Issue Essay 191

“When research priorities are being set for science, education, or any other area, the most important question to consider is: How many people’s lives will be improved if the results are successful?”

Research work in any area is carried out to look for answers to existing questions or to dig for information that was hitherto unknown. How can then one assess whether the results of the research work would be successful or not? Even if there is a strong possibility of the results being successful, how can one ascertain how many people’s lives would be improved by these results because no one knows what the results would be like. The need to provide a high priority to the question, “How many people’s lives will be improved if the results are successful?” is therefore, highly unjustified.

Before starting research work on any subject, the priorities of the research team would involve planning the method in which they have to carry out their research work, the time constraints, the ideal end result that they are looking for etc. It is true that the effect of the results on the lives of people will also be an important aspect that has to be considered, but this question cannot be accorded a high priority as we would be incapable of accurately judging the number of people whose lives would be improved. Even if one does arrive at an estimate of the number of people whose lives would be improved, one will have to take into account the side-effects of the results as well. All the results of any form of research work can be used for both positive as well as negative purposes. If we start taking the negative aspects of the results of research work into consideration, then it is unlikely that we will be able to justify the conduct of a majority of research works in all fields.

When the research work on atomic energy was being carried out, could there have been an estimate of the number of people whose lives would be improved by the results of the research work? On the contrary, millions of people lost their lives and even more people are living with the aftermath of the atomic explosions at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Had the researchers been able to foresee this effect that the results of their research work had on mankind? There is no denying the fact that a number of people have benefited from the results of the said research work as it has led to the generation of power as well. Even if the negative impact of the research work had been foreseen and it had been given a high priority, then stopping the research work could have led to a scenario wherein the generation of nuclear power would not have been possible.

The controversial research work on genetic mutations may affect the lives of millions of people by finding the cures for various terminal diseases. However, the results of such a research work can also be used for altering the genetic makeup of humans and animals to create monsters. Hence, it is evident that the effect of the results of a research work on the lives of people should not be given a high priority as one cannot predict the turn of events that might take place once the results are available for common use.

Therefore, it is in the interest of the society that all forms of research work should be allowed to progress without paying much importance to the number of people who are likely to see improvements in their lives as a result of the consequences of the research work.