Notes from a basically applied scientist Sanford Eigenbrode
Evidently since the inception of rigorous inquiry about the nature of the physical world, there has been a tension between the value of science for its utility vs. the value of science for deepening our understanding and appreciation of nature.
From Plato’s Republic
Socrates: Shall we set down astronomy among the subjects of study? Glaucon: I think so, to know something about the seasons, the months and the years is of use for military purposes, as well as for agriculture and for navigation. Socrates: It amuses me to see how afraid you are, lest the people should accuse you of recommending useless studies.
This ancient tension continues to operate within every scientific discipline, whether one or the other perspective predominates within that discipline. Through the science of the enlightenment a shift can be discerned from an emphasis on attention to the workings of nature as a kind of intellectual devotion to an emphasis on understanding nature and harnessing its principles. Post enlightenment science has shifted from an emphasis on fundamental curiosity to application. My own discipline, entomology, has scholarly roots in cataloguing and fathoming the bewildering biological diversity of insects, but also in the quest to manage the species that compete with us for food and fiber. Americans played a central roll in elevating applied entomology, although some of the giants like C.V. Riley and Benjamin Walsh, were also gifted and insightful naturalists.
Dr. Sanford D. Eigenbrode is Professor and Chair of Entomology at the University of Idaho. He received a BS in biology, an MS in Natural Resources and a PhD in Entomology from Cornell University. Sanford conducts research on chemical ecology of insect-plant and multi-trophic interactions. He has expertise in host plant resistance, natural products chemistry, scanning electron microscopy, and integration of host plant resistance into insect pest management. Recently, he has focused on the chemical ecology, landscape ecology and management of insect-vectored viruses of wheat, potatoes and legumes. He is director of an AFRI RAMP project on legume virus risk mitigation. His landscape ecology research has included study of insect pests affecting coffee agroforestry systems in Costa Rica. He is co-PI on a renewed NSF-IGERT project on Resilience of Ecological and Social Systems in Changing Landscapes and coordinator of the Joint Doctoral Program between the University of Idaho and CATIE (Tropical Agricultural Research and Higher Education Center) in Turrialba, Costa Rica . He is project director for a recently funded $20M NIFA Coordinated Agricultural Project on Regional Approaches to Climate Change in Pacific Northwest Agriculture. As an outgrowth of his several interdisciplinary, collaborative projects, Sanford is engaged in research and education focused on improving the process of collaborative science. He is a co-PI on an NSF-funded project on Improving Communication in Cross-Disciplinary Collaboration. Dr. Eigenbrode has been the recipient of numerous awards and honors, including the 2011 University of Idaho’s Research Excellence Award.