The former creates items that may teach you a new minor glyph, while the latter creates items that may teach you a new major glyph. Minor Inscription Research looks to be a very cheap spell, using the basic Moonglow Ink, while Northrend Inscription Research is a little more expensive, requiring Ink of the Sea and Snowfall Ink, both of which are created with pigments made from milling Northrend herbs. Both abilities also have a 20 hour cooldown, so no spamming them to collect all the glyphs even if you do lay in a massive stockpile of ink and parchment.
It's sort of like the old spell research for casters from Everquest combined with the alchemy discovery system. Of course, you don't have to gather rare drops like with research, and in theory, you won't have to make hundreds of items hoping for a discovery like discovery.
The type and caliber of the glyphs to be discovered this way is still unknown. If they turn out to be some of the better or more desirable recipes, though, it should certainly give Inscriptionists a good cash flow, as not everyone will know the glyph in question. The 20 hour cooldown and the uncommon pigments needed for the Northrend recipe should add to this is well. It's an intriguing new mechanic for the class, and we'll be interested to see how well it fares. As long as the discovery rate of unique glyphs is relatively high, it should do well enough.