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|Why Research Matters|

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by Dr. Mariagiulia Giuffré, Legal Scholar

Throughout history, people have always migrated from one place to another. Ever since the earliest humans began to spread from Africa thousands of years ago, people have been on the move, driven by climate, food availability, and other environmental factors [1]. Today about three percent of the world’s population live outside of their country of origin due to famine, climate change, persecution, security, demography, poverty and human rights abuses. Within this broadly mixed category of people on the move, refugees fleeing persecution and gross human rights violations in their home country represent the most vulnerable group, and are often unable to obtain personal identification and travel documents. As uninvited aliens, refugees are often perceived as a menace to the peace and internal security of the host State while also having no community and no linkage with their home country. As such, they are treated as outsiders whose claims must first be carefully assessed in order to decide whether they are legitimate and worthy of assistance. States’ endeavours to impose ever more robust barriers against those who seek to enter their national territories continue to accelerate and have therefore led to a ‘tension between generosity towards those at home and wariness of those from abroad’ [2].  

When we introduced our Fellows in our little riddle, we also raised the question “why”. It was meant in a double sense: Why did you choose your field? And why do your think your research matters? Well, our philosopher of biology Chiara has already answered the first “why” question in our feature 33 questions. But we wanted to give her some more space to share her thoughts about the second “why” question – which is, we think, very important in a world where the relevance of research and science for society’s flourishing sometimes is doubted…So let’s take a look at Chiara’s thoughts:

Indirect But Nonetheless Important: The Impact of Research in Philosophy of Biology

Disciplines like philosophy of biology tend to have very indirect, but at the same time very broad impact on the real world. Technically everything I look at has little immediate empirical relevance, as philosophers deal mostly with theoretical aspects of science. However, as I said before, changes in theories can have extremely powerful long-term impact on the way we look at the world, and on how we conduct empirical and applied research.

When we introduced our Fellows in our little riddle, we also raised the question “why”. It was meant in a double sense: Why did you choose your field? And why do your think your research matters? Well, our mircobiologist Maria Laura has already given an insight into the first “why” question in our feature 33 questions. But we wanted to give her some more space to share her thoughts about the second “why” question – which is, we think, very important in a world where the relevance of research and science for society’s flourishing sometimes is doubted … So let’s take a look at Maria Laura’s thoughts:

Can Bacteria Help us Get Rid of Microplastics?

My research will directly increase the knowledge we have around a relatively new topic in science: microplastics. In particular, I will try to answer a specific question: Do the surface properties that enhance bacterial attachment to chitin also enhance attachment to ordinary plastics surface and, if they do, is there a preference for a specific kind of material?

If you never heard of microplastics or chitin, you might be thinking: Why microplastics and chitin? What are microplastics? Why is it relevant to understand how bacteria attach to these compounds?