Friday, February 01, 2008

Science funding in the U.S.

Andrew Stern writes that scientists are less than pleased with their support from the U.S. government.
Basic research depends heavily on the government, as corporations tend to funnel their cash toward applied research likely to pay off soon in the marketplace. The America Competes Act, which set a goal of doubling science funding, has been a casualty of other needs and the chronic budget conflicts between the White House and Capitol Hill. One of the most significant unfunded projects was the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER), whose promised $160M contribution from the US didn't materialize.
COMMENT: It's a given (although some politicos imply otherwise) that there will never be enough money to do everything that seems worth doing to all of the countless constituencies in a democratic nation. Some good things won't get funded. But the consequences of neglecting basic research are, I think, lost on a government that is increasingly coming to resemble corporations - looking for near-term results. (The blame falls on both branches of government involved - things aren't going to change magically, or even quickly, no matter who wins this year's elections.)
The only answer is to resolve to continue a long, hard slog as scientists, sciences writers, and other informed citizens make their case through every available means of persuasion.

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