Basic and Applied Sciences

We explain what basic and applied sciences are, how they are related and different, and multiple examples of each category.

In the construction of a building, engineering applies knowledge obtained through basic sciences.In the construction of a building, engineering applies knowledge obtained through basic sciences.
Theoretical advances in basic sciences can be applied to problem solving.

What are basic and applied sciences?

Basic sciences and applied sciences They are two types of theoretical approach to research and knowledge.whose fundamental difference has to do with the objective behind the acquisition of knowledge.

The basic sciencesThus, also called fundamental sciences, essential sciences or pure sciences, are the set of scientific disciplines whose study of reality It does not contemplate useful or practical purposes, but is dedicated to the accumulation of knowledgeto increase the amount of knowledge of humanity.

Instead, applied sciences are the set of scientific disciplines that study reality for the express purpose of solving problems or satisfying needsthat is, with practical and useful purposes for humanity.

These two types of science, traditionally opposed in their way of understanding the purpose of research, also are mutually complementary. The theoretical advances in basic sciences entail the possibility of being applied to problem solving. In the same way, the applied sciences, when solving problems and addressing practical issues, formulate new questions and new doubts to which the “pure” sciences can dedicate themselves.

This relationship is crucial for research and development (R&D), that is, for technological innovation and obtaining new and more complex tools.

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It may help you: Branches of science

Examples of basic sciences

Some examples of basic or “pure” sciences are:

  • Mathdedicated to studying the formal language of numbers and geometric figures.
  • Chemistrydedicated to the study of the composition and transformations of matter.
  • biologydedicated to the study of life and living beings, as well as their relationships with each other and the environment.
  • Physicaldedicated to the study of the laws of the universe in its most abstract expression, such as forces, energies, etc.
  • geologydedicated to the study of the interior structure and composition of our planet.
  • Astrophysicsdedicated to the study of celestial bodies and the forces that govern them in outer space.

Examples of applied sciences

Medicine containers indicate their chemical components.Medicine containers indicate their chemical components.
Pharmacology uses knowledge from other applied sciences and also from pure sciences.

Some examples of applied sciences are:

  • Engineering, dedicated to studying the use of scientific knowledge for the design and construction of machines, structures, systems and processes. For this, it uses different tools from mathematics, physics, chemistry, among other pure sciences.
  • Medicine, dedicated to the study of the body, its processes, its structure and its ailments, in order to prolong life and combat disease. For this, it uses tools from chemistry, biochemistry and biology, among other pure sciences.
  • Pharmacology, dedicated to the study of the action of certain chemical substances in the human body, for health, psychological or medical purposes. For this, it uses knowledge from other applied sciences (medicine, for example) and also from pure sciences such as chemistry, biology, among others.
  • Communication Sciences, dedicated to the study of human communication processes, which constitutes a wide range of topics and possibilities. Also called communicology or social communication, it is a transdisciplinary discipline that uses knowledge of a different nature such as anthropology, psychology, culture, technology, etc.
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Differences between basic sciences and applied sciences

The differences between basic sciences and applied sciences can be summarized as follows:

Basic or fundamental sciences Applied Science
They pursue knowledge for its own sake, that is, without engaging with the practical issues of everyday life. They pursue knowledge as an instrument for solving problems and improving daily life.
They do not provide immediate economic and social benefits. Its immediate applications are notable and productive, which is why they bring economic and social benefits.
They expand the field of human knowledge, although in abstract terms. They expand the field of human capabilities, in specific terms.

Continue with: Formal sciences


  • “Basic science, applied science, extension and dissemination: from compartmentalization to the ecology of knowledge or transdisciplinarity” by María Julieta Duedra, Paula Gabriel Torres, Martín Miguel Montes and Fernando Galliari in University careers 6(11), 2020. en
  • “Basic and applied sciences – can the distinction (still) be drawn?” by Matti Sintonen in Science Studies (2), 1990. pp. 23-31.
  • “Basic science vs? applied science” at the University of Concepción (Chile).
  • “Science” in The Encyclopaedia Britannica.