"Research is formalized curiosity" refers to the process by which someone diligently seeks knowledge while pursuing a passion for a particular subject, according to Wired. The original quote is from Zora Neal Hurston's 1942 autobiography "Dust Tracks on a Road" in which she explains why she didn't do well in her anthropology classes in college.
The full quote reads, "Research is formalized curiosity. It is poking and prying with a purpose. It is a seeking that he who wishes may know the cosmic secrets of the world and they that dwell therein." Scholars have interpreted Hurston's words as referring to scientific inquiry, and they are often cited in support of scientific or academic research.
For example, University of Michigan Provost Paul N. Courant cited Hurston when he told the Senate Assembly that the university's mission is to "help students ask questions, and focus on the future, the business of learning and teaching." He said Hurston's quote "described the academic enterprise well."
Young scientist Brooke Martin also evokes Hurston when she states that the scientific method and organized research will "gradually direct unfettered curiosity" toward a solution. Martin's science project utilized a particular company's product to solve an everyday challenge. The student was part of Discover Education's Young Scientist Challenge.