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. If you'd like to read more awesome and interesting stuff, check out this unrelated (but not entirely random!) Techdirt post via StumbleUpon.

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 15th, 2013 @ 5:14pm

    Not only are many politicians short sighted in their economic policy, but they also seem to be blind when it comes to the funding of scientific research. Heaven forbid we find out something of importance which upsets their house of cards.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 15th, 2013 @ 5:38pm

    the LHC is useless

    Bah. Who cares if the Large Hadron Collider exists? And why study cancer in lab mice? Who cares if mice get cancer?

    "If money is all you care about, then money is all you will get." -- Princess Leia

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    wallow-T, May 15th, 2013 @ 7:36pm

    re: the proposed funding criteria for Canada's NRC and the USA NSF:

    I begin to suspect that we have passed Peak Civilization.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 15th, 2013 @ 10:14pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 15th, 2013 @ 11:20pm

    Interestingly, if Lamar Smith were a grant being judged he would fail all three criteria.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Tofof, May 16th, 2013 @ 12:14am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 16th, 2013 @ 2:45am

    "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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, May 16th, 2013 @ 5:50am


      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.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Richard (profile), May 16th, 2013 @ 7:54am

    Fermi Lab

    I liked the answer given by the director of Fermi Lab to the question:

    Q. What does Fermi Lab contribute to the defence of the United States?

    A. It makes the United States worth defending!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

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