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Published online 20 August 2008 | Nature 454, 927 (2008) | doi:10.1038/454927a

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Bell Labs bottoms out

Institute pulls plug on basic research.

It generated six Nobel prizes in as many decades, but after a string of staff departures, physicists claim that the once iconic Bell Laboratories has finally pulled out of basic science.

Just four scientists are left working in Bell's fundamental physics department in Murray Hill, New Jersey, Nature has learned.

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  • The closing of Bell Labs - and the tendency of bureaucrats in federal research agencies to channel funds to researchers who will provide the answer that they want to see - are a very bad a omen for fundamental research. Oliver K. Manuel http://myprofile.cos.com/manuelo09

    • 20 Aug, 2008
    • Posted by: Oliver Manuel
  • Its a shame. Bell Labs had come to represent more than merely a research arm of a profit maximizing corporate machine. It was seen by many as a haven where talented scientists and engineers could symbiotically thrive to broaden scientific frontiers with novel research that were afforded with tremendous degrees of flexibility in focus. i.e. allowing important scientific research to proceed that may -- on hindsight -- lack any immediate or obvious exhuberance in practicality to the telecommunications sector. It had become renouned as a non-academic instituion that fostered brilliant scientific research, along the likes of IBM Zurich, etc. Moreover, for AT&T, then Lucent and now Alcatel-Lucent, Bell Labs also turned out to be an effective marketing tool particularly amongst scientific circles and even the general public. I guess the scaling back and corporate restructuring of Bell Labs is the nature of things. Afterall, industry financed research has to -- and very well should -- feedback to the corporate bottom line somehow. Even the mighty Bell Labs is no perpetual motion machine.

    • 20 Aug, 2008
    • Posted by: j j
  • It is unbelievable, no fundamental physics in Bell Labs... what''ll be further...

    • 21 Aug, 2008
    • Posted by: Natalia A. Palii
  • Basic research is extremely important.

    • 21 Aug, 2008
    • Posted by: BELA PAPP
    • 22 Aug, 2008
    • Posted by: Steve Logsdon
  • is there any new in telecom which can be categorised the area for invention not innovation, possibly teleco as technology is getting saturated,or with subjective to conditions its importance as core revenue generating field is debatable now ? ..is that needed for telco oriented research facility to re-invent their own thought processes and find new areas of research? , which can have substantial commercial and public importance , what is the hot for today , surely telecom is not the answer I guess, may be Bell labs and ALU both needs some basic re-engineering in their thought process and basic modeling for commcercial products and research...

    • 24 Aug, 2008
    • Posted by: Nanak Lohana