DailyDirt: New Models For (Not) Funding Science?

from the urls-we-dig-up dept

In lean times like these, it’s getting tougher to get funding for science and technology research, especially for innovative but high-risk ideas. It’s no surprise that both the government and the private sector seem to feel more comfortable investing their money in more conservative “sure thing” efforts these days. While the scientific funding system is far from perfect, some of the attempts to “fix” it are making it even worse. Here are just a few (good and bad) examples.

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Comments on “DailyDirt: New Models For (Not) Funding Science?”

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On the other hand

On the other hand, far too many grants are written where the main outcome is journal articles (journal articles != new knowledge) and the main evidence that the researchers can deliver is that they have written journal articles in the past.

This isn’t to say that the first two proposals are problem free, but I think it isn’t unreasonable for taxpayer funds to ask that something other than articles locked up behind Elsevier paywalls is the outcome of the research.


Choosing Research

A general study into how extremophilic bacteria function would not be judged by Congress to directly advance welfare, health, prosperity, or security. In fact, in 1965, it was precisely the sort of science-for-science’s sake — funded by the government through the NSF — that this bill would attempt to eliminate.

And yet the entire field of modern biology – everything from cloning to the promising leukemia cures to the DNA fingerprinting so loved by prosecutors and police departments – stems from the isolation of this organism’s ( Thermus aquaticus) dna-copying protein, Taq polymerase.

We hijack this protein and put it to use in PCR, the technique by which even a single strand of dna can be amplified (copied) billionfold or more so that it can be easily sequenced and otherwise manipulated.

This is a choice example, obviously. No, not everything pans out. But one man’s study of an obscure bacteria in Yellowstone leads nearly directly – twenty years later – to a fundamental new technique for which the inventors win a Nobel prize. And it wouldn’t have been funded if the NSF was forced to operate under the newly proposed rules.


“Scientific discovery is not valuable unless it has commercial value.”

wow, how short sighted !!!, there is no way of telling what will become valuable, the discovery of the humble battery had no application for the first 100 years of it’s existence. !!

what about fundamental physics, X-rays were something that at first had no practical applications, but not now.

You could provide an endless list of scientific discoveries that had no “value” at the time, that have become absolutely critical and useful now.


Re: Re:

In order to understand what these politicians are attempting to do, one needs to explore the possible motives. One such motive might be that their benevolent benefactors could see a decline in stock price if some new research were to point out detrimental or otherwise adverse affects of their much heralded product line(s). This must be nipped in the bud in order to sustain their comfy position(s) and not upset the applecart. What they fail to foresee is that delay of the inevitable only makes it worse.

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