Research policy

This database involves multi-disciplinary tools, investigations, and approaches. The aim is to follow the best scientific principles of the ‘frontier’ research and documentation in the social sciences and humanities.

Definition of ‘frontier research’

Frontier research is situated between basic (fundamental/ pure) and applied research, and goes much beyond. The term was coined in a European Commission’s report, which identified the following characteristics of frontier research:

  • Frontier research stands at the forefront of creating new knowledge and developing new understanding. Those involved are responsible for fundamental discoveries and advances in theoretical and empirical understanding, and even achieving the occasional revolutionary breakthrough that completely changes our knowledge of the world.
  • Frontier research is an intrinsically risky endeavour. In the new and most exciting research areas, the approach or trajectory that may prove most fruitful for developing the field is often not clear. Researchers must be bold and take risks. Indeed, only researchers are generally in a position to identify the opportunities of greatest promise. The task of funding agencies is confined to supporting the best researchers with the most exciting ideas, rather than trying to identify priorities.
  • The traditional distinction between ‘basic’ and ‘applied’ research implies that research can be either one or the other but not both. With frontier research researchers may well be concerned with both new knowledge about the world and with generating potentially useful knowledge at the same time. Therefore, there is a much closer and more intimate connection between the resulting science and technology, with few of the barriers that arise when basic research and applied research are carried out separately.
  • Frontier research pursues questions irrespective of established disciplinary boundaries. It may well involve multi-, inter- or trans-disciplinary research that brings together researchers from different disciplinary backgrounds, with different theoretical and conceptual approaches, techniques, methodologies and instrumentation, perhaps even different goals and motivations. (European Commission, Frontier Research: The European Challenge High-Level Expert Group Report (Brussels: European Commission, 2005), p. 18.





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