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For example, suppose a new programming language is invented and some research regarding it is published, containing small, "toy" examples of its application. Suppose then that someone else takes this language and evaluates it in a real industrial case study, and reports on its usefulness and/or shortcomings.

My question about this second report is twofold:

  1. Is it novel research (I suspect it probably is)

  2. Would this kind of work be appropriate for a PhD thesis?

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  • Can you taste a drink without drinking it? Nobody here can answer this broad question without having precise information about it.
    – enthu
    Nov 4, 2014 at 16:06
  • Apologies, I have edited the question to include an example that will hopefully make things clearer.
    – mopalop
    Nov 5, 2014 at 9:05

1 Answer 1

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Science focuses on the acquisition of new knowledge. "Does this really work outside the lab?" is a valid question on which to acquire knowledge. Industry usage of a method often requires changes in scale and context which pose fundamentally new challenges to overcome.

Not all industrial evaluations, however, would be meaningful science. The distinction is whether the information acquired by the evaluation constitutes a contribution to human knowledge or if it is just a recommendation for a decision by the company.

For example, I saw a talk yesterday which included future work to evaluate a new membrane material in an industrial water-treatment facility. Let's see some examples of how this evaluation might be science or not:

  • Science: When used at scale, is water quality maintained to appropriate standards? How well does the material hold up over time?
  • Not Science: Will this be easy to integrate into the current procedures of this particular plant? What business and legal contracts will be necessary to switch suppliers?
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  • Thanks for your answer. I think the distinction between different kinds of acquired information is an important one that I hadn't thought about.
    – mopalop
    Nov 5, 2014 at 15:37

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