Do scientists get fundamental research ideas by solving practical problems?
We discuss the problem-solving nature of scientific activity and maintain that contributions made in the form of improved methodologies, new technologies, and instruments for research are, and will increasingly become, central in experimental sciences and in fields traditionally the realm of pure intellectual speculation. The contribution of scientists to the development of new technologies and techniques for research purposes largely exceeds their contribution to developing technologies for industrial purposes, although the former easily blurs into the latter. We verify the effect of both types of contributions on the productivity of a sample of American star physicists, and show that improving research technologies always boosts the productivity of scientists, whereas developing industrial technologies is beneficial only when the technology stems from a research instrument. Copyright 2009 The Author 2009. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of Associazione ICC. All rights reserved., Oxford University Press.
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