Budget Blow for US Science

Makalakumu

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It was an imperative that was supposed to transcend party politics. The America COMPETES Act, put forth by congressional Republicans and Democrats and signed into law by President Bush in August, was meant to signal support for boosting basic science in the name of remaining competitive internationally.

http://fire.pppl.gov/doe_budget_2008_ nature_122407.pdf

The US will not be able to remain a competitor on the international stage if it doesn't do something about this...
 
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Makalakumu

Makalakumu

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One has to wonder if this policy is only limited to the public budget. How much money is being allocated to "top secret" science that is performed under the aegus of the military industrial complex or the intelligence junta? My guess is that their budgets are well padded...
 

tellner

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This is just the next step in the dismantling of Science in the US.

Under St. Ronald the Blessed government funding for science plummeted. Large parts of the National Laboratory infrastructure were dismantled. Funding for science education, pure research and basic research was slashed. We were told that the Sacred Market would automatically take care of everything. Bless the Market! Bless the All-powerful, All-seeing, All-loving Market!

It didn't work that way.

The system of industry- and company-owned research labs collapsed within a few years. The resident expertise and institutional competence was thrown out. Now when the boardroom wants science done it is increasingly subcontracted piecemeal to the universities.

The universities are in real trouble. Funding is down. It is difficult if not impossible to get money for long term research that doesn't yield immediate commercially exploitable results. The money that comes from industry is generally very specific for set projects and very limited amounts of time. With the decrease in tenure scientists are increasingly lecturers, adjuncts and non-tenure track assistant professors. There is not enough stability or security to set up anything except very short term research.

Employment opportunities for scientists are down, and despite what Bill Gates says and the Smirking Chimp dutifully repeats we are graduating more people than we employ. We just aren't graduating enough who are willing to spend eight years in school to work contingently for $30,000 on the vanishing chance of getting some job security after a decade of postdoc holding patterns and gypsy scholar positions. So L-1 and H1-B visas get handed out like party favors. Employment prospects for American scientists and engineers take a hit as foreigners are brought in who can not quit and can be paid less.

What's worse, almost all research connected with industry is confidential. There is no communication with colleagues. You can not use an idea or result from funded research in other projects. Papers are held back. The free communication and interchange of ideas that is absolutely vital to scientific progress has been cut off.

DARPA has funded a lot of interesting "Blue Sky" projects and lines of inquiry. That stopped in the first half of 2001. The DoD announced that it would only be funding short term research with immediate practical results.

So the government isn't funding science. Industry isn't funding science. The human and institutional basis has been destroyed. The military pipeline has been shut down. The free exchange of ideas and results which is the cornerstone of modern science has been broken up and sold as pea gravel. We have had in the senile Gipper, Maximus and Minimus almost twenty years of active hostility to science as a concept. The current Great White (always and forever White) Hope of the GOP is Mike Huckabee who has stated several times that he prefers faith to science because science can change.

Meanwhile nations that are on the rise rather than entering a quick and possibly fatal decline are mad about science. Funding in East Asia, South Asia and large parts of Europe is up. Research and development are serious priorities. They recognize that reality is more important than fantasy. We have decided that the ravings of a bunch of illiterate sheep-shagging desert nomads and low class urban lumpen proles tell us everything that we need to know, and our Big Invisible Friend in the Sky will make it all right because He loves us. And before the Christians get all huffy, they're my goat-poking and lion-fattening ancestors, not yours.

We've destroyed science and the basis for science in this country. We have squandered our lead and the things that made it possible. What's worse, we've devalued science and put superstitious self righteousness in its place. But we expect that things will work out because - Hey! Hotpants McStarlet just got arrested for drunk driving! American Idolatry is on! 9-11! 9-11!
 

crushing

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One has to wonder if this policy is only limited to the public budget. How much money is being allocated to "top secret" science that is performed under the aegus of the military industrial complex or the intelligence junta? My guess is that their budgets are well padded...

Military superiority is the main reason the government got involved in the funding of science in the first place.

Here is an intersting article from the free market think tank Cato calling for an end to the government science funding: http://www.cato.org/pub_display.php?pub_id=6168


tellner said:
Under St. Ronald the Blessed government funding for science plummeted.

I would like to see the numbers for that claim. I didn't think there was a budget ever sent to 'St. Ronald' that he vetoed. Also, the so-called Star Wars project would require mucho dinero in science related funding.
 
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Makalakumu

Makalakumu

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Employment opportunities for scientists are down, and despite what Bill Gates says and the Smirking Chimp dutifully repeats we are graduating more people than we employ. We just aren't graduating enough who are willing to spend eight years in school to work contingently for $30,000 on the vanishing chance of getting some job security after a decade of postdoc holding patterns and gypsy scholar positions. So L-1 and H1-B visas get handed out like party favors. Employment prospects for American scientists and engineers take a hit as foreigners are brought in who can not quit and can be paid less.

I can vouch for this. It's one of the reasons I haven't moved toward a PhD in this country. There are better opportunities for people with higher education overseas...
 

Empty Hands

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This has had an immediate effect. Our existing NIH grants took an immediate hit, about 20% I think. I am lucky that my mentor is well funded, and it won't affect our research too much. For everyone else though, the situation is becoming more and more dire. The acceptance rates of competitive renewals of NIH grants are in the single digits now. I know one investigator who just had a grant scored at 3.9% (i.e. better than 96.1% of all the grants) rejected.

That is why I am moving out of academia when my PhD is done.
 

tellner

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Well of course the Cato Institute is going to say government funding of science is bad. They are the original One Note Johnnys. The only thing they're ever capable of doing is saying "It's all the government's fault."

We've seen what happened starting in the 80s when science was moved to the Pentagon and the boardroom. US science began a serious decline. Private research didn't step in to fill the gap. In fact, they've been closing down their own facilities for a quarter century. The last fiber and paper research lab shut some years ago. It's just one of dozens. It all became short-term thinking, outsourcing and contingent limited work. The quality and quantity of research started a downwards slope which it is still on. The only question is how much time do we have before we head off the edge of the cliff.
 
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Makalakumu

Makalakumu

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The only question is how much time do we have before we head off the edge of the cliff.

We are already there. The damage is done. An entire generation of scientists in this country has been disabled while other countries spring ahead. Now we play catch up if we play at all.
 

crushing

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Well of course the Cato Institute is going to say government funding of science is bad. They are the original One Note Johnnys. The only thing they're ever capable of doing is saying "It's all the government's fault."

We've seen what happened starting in the 80s when science was moved to the Pentagon and the boardroom. US science began a serious decline. Private research didn't step in to fill the gap. In fact, they've been closing down their own facilities for a quarter century. The last fiber and paper research lab shut some years ago. It's just one of dozens. It all became short-term thinking, outsourcing and contingent limited work. The quality and quantity of research started a downwards slope which it is still on. The only question is how much time do we have before we head off the edge of the cliff.

Got those numbers and reference to support the claim that Reagan reduced government funding of science? I don't think he ever vetoed a budget the Democratic congress sent him. Maybe the numbers are at the end of Gravina Island Bridge?

Here is another report, from another classical liberal group like the Cato Institute that asks the question - "Government and Science: A Dangerous Liaison?" It contains data from OMB regarding the levels of government funding of science over the years, both in billions of dollars and as a percentage of GDP.

http://www.mises.org/journals/scholar/butos1.pdf

I think the bigger blow to US Science and competitiveness is the policies and attitudes that deter the world's best and brightest from coming to and staying in the US. Not that the taxpayers won't be funding a new study on the effects of what happens when researchers place a drop of krazy glue in a prairie dog's sinus cavity.
 

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