What would convince you that funding science is worthwhile?

Now that we are seeing some of the final FY 2012 appropriations being passed in both the House and Senate, I thought that it would be good to do a budget post. There were many Calls For Action last week to scientists, encouraging them to call/write to their Representative in the Senate to support the FY 2012 NSF budget at a level of little over $6.8 billion. I believe that the Senate did pass a series of appropriations that included the FY 2012 NSF budget, by a vote of 69 to 30.This year, perhaps more than any other year, there has been an incredible amount of discussion surrounding the Federal Budget. But I do not want to go into rehashing those events.Federal Funding for scientific agencies fill a significant detriment in the country as more and more companies are cutting their R&D departments. The Federal Government has the ability to encourage more R&D by creating aspiring mandates, such as the Fuel Efficiency Standards  announced in July in which current technology will not reach those goals, requiring companies to be innovative in order to comply with the mandates.  The funding appropriated to agencies in turn provide the Federal Government with the knowledge and research for feasible and high-achieving mandates that can in turn develop new markets and encourage innovation. Larger R&D departments = more jobs, better economy.A part of me wonders, why it is not an easy decision to continue to fund agencies like the NSF? $6.8 billion sounds like a lot of money, but it only comes out to, on average, $22/year/person. Is it the need to know what scientists are using the funds for? Does the tax-payer not want to support appropriations to these agencies because there is no accountability? I realize that this past spring, when the Senate report, The National Science Foundation: Under the Microscopecame out, much of the media focused on the “absurdity” of robots folding laundry. But in that anecdote they failed to recognize the importance of studying computer simulated unordered tasks. The report fails to understand the process of science and its outcomes. The reason that I bring this report up is that although the report claims that a lack of accountability justifies cutting the agency’s budget, it is not clear to me that more accountability would fix the problem. Thus, I want to ask: would the public like access to publications as a means of accountability?Currently, a majority of peer-reviewed research is published in journals that require a license for access. These licenses are very expensive and institutions pay a significant amount of money for access to these publications. Currently, the Office of Science and Technology Policy has put out a call for input on allowing public-access to publications and it will be very interesting to see the responses.

In case you haven’t seen this yet: Jon Stewart parody, what are we scientists up to?! 🙂

What are some other means to better illustrate that funds towards scientific research is worthwhile?

Excellent post in Science Progress: In defense of the NSF

*edit 11.09.11: New initiative unveiled by NSF that will allow some proposals that will not go through the traditional review process. This new initiative is perhaps a means to address Congress’ criticism of NSF not funding “transformative research”? CREATIV 





2 responses to “What would convince you that funding science is worthwhile?”

  1. Chemjobber says :

    Is it better to rely on “science is awesome” or “we’ll cure your cancer!” when talking to the general public on funding issues? Hard to say… I’d prefer the former, but the latter seems to be useful too.

    • STEM_Wonk says :

      yeah, not not sure either. but it seems to me that the more I dig into the policy sphere the more I begin to realize that “it will make you money”/”here is a good investment” is the one that gets people to listen.

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