The Promise of Applied Research

The Promise of Applied Research

By Beverly Iniguez-Conrique | November 21, 2016
Research Assistant, ETR

I was three and a half years old on my first day of school. On that crisp September morning, my mother woke up early to dress me and walk me over to the local elementary school.

This was a special moment for my mom. She never had the chance to attend college or immerse herself in her education. Because of this, she instilled in me from my earliest years the idea that with education, our condition of life could improve.

During my adolescence I thought optimistically about the impact my peers and I could have on the world. When I entered college, I studied psychology and became involved with undergraduate research. I quickly realized that education didn’t just have the potential to improve the lives of those who consume it. I saw that scientific investigation and inquiry could also improve the condition of all individuals in a society. 

Our Changing World

Today we live in a changing world. We experience constant developments in information technology and new effects of globalization. We face obstacles in areas of primary and mental health care, sexual and reproductive rights, diversity, education, and substance use and addiction (including our current unprecedented opioid epidemic). We also face obstacles in related areas, such as the school-to-prison pipeline, or the reconfiguration of U.S. correctional facilities as our nation’s new asylums.

Basic research—pure research that builds on scientific theories and helps us understand phenomena—has allowed us to investigate questions that have expanded our knowledge. This has led to important developments and achievements in the scientific community. But I believe it is applied research—those empirical efforts we take to find solutions to real-world challenges—that holds the true promise of a better tomorrow.

Solving Practical Problems

Applied research has the capacity to solve practical problems in today’s complex world. That’s why it has such impressive power to improve the human condition. The knowledge gained from applied research helps inform the legal procedures, laws and policies that affect individuals every day. Applications in research have also been put to work in health, business and education. These uses signal the value of scientific inquiry and its application to real-world contexts. The overall importance and relevance of scientific research cannot be overstated.

ETR is just one of many leaders when it comes to applied social science research. But our work is powerful. We study factors related to health risks, and work to mitigate them through effective interventions. We study the elements related to persistence in educational programs that lack diversity—what gives a student from an underrepresented minority the staying power to complete a degree program? We work to explore how to advance educational attainment for communities of color.

We are a non-profit organization that believes that everyone deserves to lead a healthy and fulfilling life, and our tool is the scientific method. We cherish applied research because of its compelling power to help us do better in our efforts. Indeed, theory and research-based applications have never been so important.


Beverly Iniguez-Conrique is a Research Assistant with ETR. She can be reached at


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