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Election Results… Implications For Science Funding

Polling place

Tonight’s election results appear to indicate that the country has made a sharp right turn in political leadership which does not bode well for science and education funding in this country…  This is especially disturbing if you look at the likely chair makeups of new Senate science panels.

Scientists are already spending a disproportionate amount of their time looking for grant funding and based on past funding decisions by the GOP led Congress for over a decade now, this will get even more lopsided.  It used to be that for a university, a researcher funded by the NIH was a good investment decision as they had a reasonable chance of bringing in funding.  However, if you look at NIH funding from a decade ago, there has been a catastrophic decline in funding with research funding success rates dropping by almost half.  For universities, unless there is a dramatic change in outlook on science funding in this country and federal policy, the NIH model of science is no longer a good investment for universities as it means that even the most successful senior scientists now have very low likelihood of obtaining reliable and consistent funding.  It looks even more bleak for those young scientists looking for a future career in academic science.

The problem with this of course is that academic science has been the cornerstone of economic growth in this country, particularly post WWII that have driven growth in not only economies on a global scale, but also improved the human condition substantially.  Without investments in academic science we would not have the Internet,  novel manufacturing methods or materials, clean water or any number of other advancements that have improved our lives.  Without biomedical academic science, we would not have MRI’s, new drugs to treat diabetes or heart disease, novel surgical techniques to heal disease and injury, nor would we have the promise of treating diseases like cancer and blindness.

Failing to invest in science and education is a myopic calculation designed to optimize short term profits at the expense of societal good.  The NIH was originally created to help improve the biomedical lives of American citizens.  Its return on investment has been an unparalleled success, even if you look at it from a crass commercial argument.  Failure to continue to invest in the future of the NIH and the general welfare of American citizens benefitting from biomedical research guarantees that the US will fall behind other countries in economic progress and health outcomes will continue to slide in this country relative to other developed nations.  We are already dead last by some estimates in terms of healthcare outcomes, mostly based on access to healthcare, but do we want to exacerbate an already worsening situation by failing to look down the road to potential cures for disease?

 

The photo above:

Camera: Leica M9
Exposure: 1/60
Aperture: f/2.4
Focal Length: 50mm
ISO: 200

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5 Responses

  1. Well said. The next decade will not be kind to the progression of science and equal rights. Truly a shame.

    Ben SajdakNovember 8, 2014 @ 9:50 amReply
  2. I was going to reply to this after you posted it in November, but somehow missed it and now remembered after reading your New Year’s eve post. This blog post above is really the kind of post you should try to get published in the New York Times or any other large media outlet. It’s time scientists start to speak up again!

    Dino LeoneJanuary 1, 2015 @ 10:45 pmReply
    • Thanks Dino. There does seem to be an increasing number of scientists speaking out, but most of us seem to be increasingly keeping our heads down, publishing and writing grants feverishly in an effort to keep the wheels on the bus.



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Continuing the Discussion

  1. […] your hands in it.  Get the data figuratively under your fingernails as it were.  Unfortunately, science funding in this country is in a rather bad spot and there does not seem to be any short term turnaround for it despite a rebounding economy.  The […]