The National Science Foundation, which funds a lot of basic research at American colleges and universities, is facing a budget cut
of $283 million this year, eliminating (up to) ~1,000 research grants. It's a shame because over the years many NSF-funded projects have resulted in discoveries that have turned into commercial products with significant benefits to society. Unfortunately, for people outside the scientific community, it's easy to overlook these impacts when trying to decide where to cut spending. Here are a few examples of why basic science deserves some respect.
- Sad fact: Funding for basic science research makes up less than 1% of the federal budget. Even sadder is that cutting the small amount the government spends on basic science will have little impact on short-term fiscal goals, but its negative effects on the economy will be felt for decades to come, potentially costing the U.S. billions of dollars in missed future opportunities. [url]
- Lasers are an example of how a discovery in basic science can eventually lead to a revolutionary invention. The first laser was built in the 1950s, but practical applications for lasers didn't appear until decades later. Today, lasers are a multi-billion dollar industry and are key to many technologies used in manufacturing, communications, medicine, entertainment, and scientific research. [url]
- Cutting funding for basic science research will impact young investigators the most. Actually, brand new tenure-track professors are somewhat insulated because there's always some money set aside for them. It's the just tenured professors that will feel it the most, as they try to compete for grants against the entire population, which includes Nobel laureates, National Academicians, and more well-established researchers. [url]
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