Research can be both lonely and rewarding. My first research was in the 1980s whilst completing a master’s capstone in mechanical engineering and working for Ford Motor Co., my results were widely acknowledged and they awarded me ‘Innovative Engineer’ of the year. I was surprised not in the least as the topic researched vibrational characteristics of thin walled shells (round tubes) and could not imagine who would be interested.
I continued this success on my PhD and researched deeper and more mathematically on the science. Since then through no planning I have spent many years researching low speed Aerodynamics that most ignored. Now, with unmanned aerial vehicles, it has more attention; not lots but more. This is a twin-edged sword and when popular there are many competing for the same prize and when not its a small group of people you constantly meet at each conference. I would only encourage research in areas that are of interest to the researcher and not that which is currently popular.
Recently, I presented a paper in Paris and subsequently had it published in a journal. Generally, I do not follow up how received as the ‘usual suspects’ would review as I do their work and success. To my surprise I was told by a colleague that it had been downloaded over 2000 times in over 100 countries. Naturally, I checked and smiled with a sense of research success I had not had since my first award in the 1980s.
What this has taught/reminded me is that research can be useful to others and indeed thought provoking for advancements by others. Anyone starting out to research for a doctorate should remember that hours of self centered work has the ability to be the spark for others to progress. All research is useful to open doors or show others that door does not lead anywhere useful.
Enjoy your research, do not think about how many will download, focus on adding useful data to share for advancement by all.