• Human need, rather than profit should always be the main concern of scientific research. Discuss.

Define scientific research and its purpose.

Scientific research is the systematic investigation of scientific theories and hypotheses. This leads to a deeper understanding and knowledge of the mechanics behind physical world around us, which in turn empowers mankind to come up with more sophisticated and useful technological and scientific solutions.

Thesis statement

Some may argue that profit should be of paramount importance in scientific research as the most meaningful projects tend to require large amounts of funding for their execution which can only be attained if the outcomes are profitable. In addition, it can also be said that higher profits enable researchers to go more in-depth in their projects, making breakthroughs of a larger scale. However, my stand is that human need, rather than profit, should always be the main concern of scientific research. Firstly, as consumer behavior is predicated upon human need, it is logical to focus primarily on meeting human needs as profits would naturally follow after. Secondly, by prioritizing human need over the profitability of the endeavor, it would drive scientific research to solve the world’s most dire and relevant needs, accelerating mankind’s process in alleviating the world’s greatest problems. As such, while profitability is an important factor to consider for scientific research to be effective, meeting human needs should still be the priority.

(Counter) Argument 1:
The most meaningful projects tend to require large amounts of private funding for their execution which they can only get if they are profitable

Elaboration: Scientific research with the most potential for huge impact require large amounts of funding to enable its complex and sophisticated research methods. As a lot of these funds tend to come from the private sector, the profitability of the eventual fruits of such research has to be high enough to justify the large amounts of dollars put in by these investors.

Example: Billions of dollars are poured into NASA’s quest to create the world’s first quantum computer, with its processor running at least 3600 times faster than today’s computers. Quantum computing will be most beneficial initially in the fields of drug discovery, cybersecurity, business, finance, investment, health care, logistics, and planning. Once it’s done, the estimated cost for the first quantum computers is $15 million. For such an expensive endeavor, the future financial profitability of quantum computers has to be substantial enough to justify the amount of money investors have put in to enable the relevant scientific research.

Link:  Profitability is an important factor to consider for scientific research to be effective.

(Counter) Argument 2:
Earning high profits would enable more in-depth research, resulting in scientific breakthroughs of a larger scale.

Elaboration: When scientific research revolves around a profitable business model, more and more funds can be channeled into more in-depth research over extended periods of time, leading to more and more scientific advancements as time progress.

Example: SolarCity, a company that designs, finances and installs solar power systems, has a profitable business model. This allows it to channel more and more funds into its scientific research, creating more effective and efficient solar-energy solutions again and again as its business progresses.

Link: High profits should be heavily considered as it enables in-depth and long-term research.

Argument 3:
Consumer behavior is predicated upon human need, hence it is logical to focus primarily on meeting these needs as profits would naturally follow after.

Elaboration: Business involves the transaction of value between the consumer and the provider of the good or service. While consumers provide the dollars, the provider provides value which resonates with the consumers’ needs. Hence, as long as human needs are met, profits would naturally follow after. Hence, meeting these needs should be the primary focus.

Example: Effexor, an antidepressant, had $3.8 billion in sales in 2005 and an annual growth rate of 1.2 percent. In a world where depression is highly prevalent, scientific research done to meet this dire societal need to curb symptoms of depression is naturally rewarded with high profits.

Link: It is logical to place paramount importance on meeting human need as profits would naturally follow after needs are effectively meet.

Argument 4:
Prioritizing human need over the profitability of the endeavor would compel scientific research to solve the world’s most dire and relevant needs and alleviate the world’s greatest problems.

Elaboration: A human need that is direr than another is not necessarily more profitable. If scientific research is driven primarily by profit, it could lead to the negligence of severe problems due to a perceived lack of profitability.

Example: Cancer research and the quest to develop a drug which can effectively and completely cure it is less profitable than existing, more profitable methods of chemotherapy in the long run. This raises serious ethical questions if profitability is the sole driving factor of scientific research.

Link: It is important to have meeting human need take precedence over profit if the goal is to solve the world’s most dire problems.

Back to the A’levels H1 General Paper 2016 Paper 1 Solutions


  • RL

    Good afternoon Ms Chen, I’m an A level student and would really appreciate your critique. I did qn5 for paper 1 and my substantives were for
    profit >human need
    -Profit is a requirement to fund costly research to pioneer new research.
    -profit is necessary to attract the brightest minds to ensure good scientific research .
    -profit is necessary to ensure that a good of high quality is produced(e.g by competition among other researchers and choice of consumers to choose the best)
    For human need > profit
    -scientific research is a necessity for the survival of mankind thus it overides profit
    -scientific research allows mankind to attain new heights, for greater equity in standard of living and maintain standard of living for the masses.

    • Christine Chen

      These points are valid. Perhaps what you could say is that need and profit should not be seen to be mutually exclusive and that they could possibly go hand in hand. Also, sometimes research could be driven by altruistic purposes rather than for profit.

    • Christine Chen

      yes u can write about medicine and medical research, but this shouldnt be the full scope. It would be too narrow in terms of your interpretation.

  • tiltedstudent

    Hi there, i was abit confused when i read the question and included profit for further research in my intro but didnt have time to write it.

    I agreed that human need should be the main concern
    1. Meet basic human needs of staying healthy and staying alive (cure all illnesses)
    2. Ensure that our future generations do not suffer from what our current generation suffers from

    For profit
    1. Provides economic boost to the country especially due to its high demand and lucrative business (plastic surgery) but only when research in this area doesnt deprive other humans of the basic needs

    Im so worried i will fail my gp because it doesnt even seem to make sense to me and the paper 2 was pretty hard to me

    • Christine Chen

      Hi there, these points are definitely valid. But I hope you realized that your scope in answering this question is not wide enough and need should not be seen in primary medical research lens. Your second point on need appears to be pretty vague to me as well. Unlikely to fail for this question, but definitely not a quality grade. Hope this helps!

  • Hi Ms Chen, I am also an A level student for answered this question. I was really stressed, and didn’t think straight, so I answered this way instead:

    While profit should be a concern as this will causes private firms to invest in research and spur innovation, which is important since gov resources is limited and cannot find all research, human need should still be the main focus to prevent exploitation of human, undermining of research ethics and forgoing of important but non-profitable research.

    Is it still acceptable? I am really worried, to the point that I cannot focus on revision and even during my other exams. I hope that you can give me your opinion.


    • Christine Chen

      Yes you have given a different approach for this question, but it is still within the question requirement because you talked about how profits and human needs, and the criteria for both. Do not worry so much, what I have given is just one way to approach the question and answer it. Like always, there are always multiple interpretation and ways to answer the question. Good luck for the rest of the papers.

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