Norman Borlaug was an agricultural scientist. Through years of research, he developed new, high-yielding, disease-resistant varieties of wheat.
It might not sound like much, but as a result of Borlaug’s research, wheat production in India and Pakistan almost doubled between 1965 and 1970, and formerly famine-stricken countries across the world were suddenly able to produce enough food for their entire populations. These developments have been credited with saving up to a billion people from famine, and in 1970, Borlaug was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
Many of the highest-impact people in history, whether well-known or completely obscure, have been researchers.
Why are research skills valuable?
Not everyone can be a Norman Borlaug, and not every discovery gets adopted. Nevertheless, we think research can often be one of the most valuable skill sets to build — if you’re a good fit.
We’ll argue that:
- Research seems to have been extremely high-impact historically
- There are good theoretical reasons to think that research will be high-impact
- Research skills seem extremely useful to the problems we think are most pressing
- If you’re a good fit, you can have much more impact than the average
- And, depending on which subject you focus on, you may have good backup options.
Together, this suggests that research skills could be particularly useful for having an impact.