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Basic science is not just a foundation

Intellectual freedom for scientists, unconstrained by commercial interests and direct application, fuels unexpected discoveries. Curiosity-driven, basic science has yielded a deeper understanding of how life forms develop and function in their environment and has had wide implications for health and our planet. Investing in this is vital for scientific progress and is worth protecting in a democracy.

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I am grateful for many discussions with friends and colleagues in conceptualizing the opinions expressed here, but most importantly to my collaborator on this essay, L. Girard, Director of Strategic Communication, Whitehead Institute. Much of the opinions expressed here were shaped by my experience as a trainee and investigator at the Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology in Tübingen Germany, the Medical Research Council in Cambridge UK, the Skirball Institute at New York University Langone Medical Center, the Whitehead Institute, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

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Correspondence to Ruth Lehmann.

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Lehmann, R. Basic science is not just a foundation. Nat Cell Biol 26, 8–10 (2024).

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