- New Horizons in Leadership Studies series
Conclusion All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing. (Edmund Burke) One of the ‘everlasting’ debates in academia concerns the issue of basic research versus applied research. The purpose of basic research is to expand the boundaries of knowledge regardless of the extent of its applicability, whereas applied research is conducted in order to generate knowledge for action, as defined by Chris Argyris,1 a Harvard scholar who has extensively studied this issue of the goals of research. In the natural sciences the debate over the goals of research is less intense because, as many examples have shown, knowledge engendered by basic research in the natural sciences can develop at some stage into applied knowledge (in medicine for example). However, when it comes to psychological topics the debate is not only over the aims but also over the research methods and design. For example, the area known as ‘decision-making’, a major field of research in psychology, is often studied in laboratory conditions in an attempt to maintain strict research procedures that meet the scientific requirement of maximum control over the research variables. Researchers like Argyris resist this approach, arguing that no laboratory conditions can provide real understanding of processes such as decision-making or leadership, which in reality always happen in different and unique ways. The true research laboratory, they assert, is the things that happen in reality. Therefore, those who share this position argue that it is futile to predict decisions that...
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