Research stations are immensely important to most successful strategies. Destroying them can grind enemy research to halt incredibly quickly, as research stations tend to have low health and fairly poor defenses (they are too large and numerous to make shielding all of them practical).
Though expensive, research stations make excellent investments. Research indirectly powers most war machines, so building and defending these stations is tantamount to success. Note, however, that undefended research stations can and likely will be destroyed quickly, wasting significant income.
Research can also be gained by destroying enemy units. A successful (or even unsuccessful) battle can help provide technology, making open warfare technologically preferable to a standoff.
The UEF version can be upgraded to become a defensive turret that can attack both air and ground through two separate upgrades.
When playing against AI, assualting UEF bases with the Station's weapon upgrades. If you are using air units without gunships or experimental units, it can be a real nightmare. Even if you do focus on them, the enemy will simply rebuild them over the rubble for reduced cost and time slowly eating away at your forces (provided the base has standard AI shielding). However, against ground units they are insignificant as it would be more effective build a line of Point Defenses and not reasearch staions if you were going to to use this tactic in the first place for obvious reasons