Basic research: Mistakes can lead to the biggest discoveries

Do not fear failure. It could be the first step towards the next important scientific discovery, says Peter Kjærgaard, director of the Natural History Museum of Denmark.


Our society is built upon correctness, and the entire education system pushes students towards finding only the correct answers to a problem.

But failure is not something that we should be afraid of, especially when it comes to basic research, says Peter Kjærgaard, director of the Natural History Museum of Denmark.

“In basic research there’s almost nothing better than failure. Small mistakes can lead us to the correct answers in the future. Really big mistakes can lead to bigger insights,” he says.

   Basic Research


ScienceNordic takes you into the engine room of basic research to find out:

  • What is it?
  • Who does it?
  • And how does it benefit us?

Read More: What is basic research?

Watch the full interview in the video at the top of this article, part of ScienceNordic’s Basic Research theme.

Read More: What is basic research?

Darwin’s research was built on other’s mistakes

Kjærgaard sits in an armchair in a recreation of Charles Darwin’s study while underlining the importance that mistakes have in the advancement of science.

It was in ‘this’ study that Darwin wrote about his revolutionary new theory, “On the Origin of Species.”

“Darwin’s work was only possible because so many others before him had made mistakes. This is what drives all basic research,” says Kjærgaard.

And if anyone is in any doubt over just how big a fan Kjærgaard is of Darwin’s work, just take a look at his car registration plate: “Darwin.”

Read the Danish version of this story on

Translated by: Catherine Jex

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