Research competence is the ability to develop new knowledge and techniques that permit the development of creative expertise for improving basic human life. However, recent misunderstanding has tended to limit the image of research to isolated disciplines and narrow areas. This narrow view of research has prevented the channelling of research competence into vital areas of society – for example, studies of the effects on a traditional society of the injection of advanced technology. As a result, although research may have contributed to longer life span, it has not significantly improved the quality of society because of its neglect of important areas of society. Urban technological man, while enjoying greater comfort, is often confronted with a lack of personal significance because of the lack of creative engagement in life.
The vast majority of so-called research turned out in the modern university is essentially worthless. It does not result in any measurable benefit to anything or anybody. It does not push back those omnipresent 'frontiers of knowledge' so confidently evoked; it does not in the main result in greater health or happiness among the general populace or any particular segment of it. It is busy work on a vast, almost incomprehensible scale.
In the natural sciences, most scholarship springs from disinterested intellectual curiosity. That commitment to the life of the mind is what distinguishes universities from other institutions.