Q: How do the findings of research help the academic community?

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First off, the findings of research help not just the academic community, but humankind, and in fact, the whole world. (Think of the rehabilitation of endangered species or the use of solar energy.) However, the benefits to the academic community are of a special kind: research is new knowledge, but that knowledge – often referred to as research novelty – is built on earlier knowledge added by research. For the academic community, findings of research are stepping stones to more research or doors to new frontiers. It is this concept that Newton illustrated when he said, "If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants."

In more concrete terms, this debt to other researchers is acknowledged in the form of citations. Academics, in writing about their new findings, mention the work of others that led to the new findings. In even more concrete terms, the benefits of earlier research can be seen in better techniques, better instruments, and better concepts that academics use but seldom think of acknowledging. The modern electron microscope, for example, enabled scientists to observe a layer of molybdenum and sulfur atoms bonded together, which was just two atoms thick. Artificial intelligence (AI) is another example: big data can be analyzed to reveal patterns that would have been impossible to discover by other means.

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