A nice quote from one of the latest AMSTAT News columns.
A strategy I discourage is “develop theory/model/method, seek application.” Developing theory, a model, or a method suggests you have done some context-free research; already a bad start. The existence of proof (Is there a problem?) hasn't been given. If you then seek an application, you don't ask, “What is a reasonable way to answer this question, given this data, in this context?" Instead, you ask, “Can I answer the question with this data; in this context; with my theory, model, or method?” Who then considers whether a different (perhaps simpler) answer would have been better? — Terry Speed
Emphasis is mine. The point of this article is that rather than doing purely theory-driven research, there is great value in consulting and collaborating: we learn a lot, our brain is maintained at a suitable level of activity, and we have many opportunities to consider well-targeted research questions.
The whole article is available in the IMS Bulletin: Terence’s Stuff: How to do Statistical Research (PDF).