News Beginning of the end for government-funded scientific research [in America]?

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Late last night, I got an email from the APS news thing (American Physical Society I believe). I'm a member, so no doubt those of you who are also members got this email. For those that didn't, here it is:

APS said:
URGENT ALERT TO THE APS MEMBERSHIP: THREAT TO AMERICAN SCIENCE

THE ISSUE IN BRIEF: Last Friday, House Republicans, who hold the
majority, introduced a detailed plan to slash $100 billion from
the non-defense portion of the FY 2011 discretionary budget. The
plan, which amounts to a reduction of about 33 percent in federal
spending during the balance of the fiscal year, would devastate
significant portions of federal commitments to science. It is
critical that you contact your member of Congress NOW in order to
avoid severe disruptions of research grants, cessation of national
user facilities operations; halting of major science construction
projects; initiation of layoffs, furloughs and termination of
laboratory personnel; and reductions in support for science education.

DETAILS: The Continuing Resolution under which the federal government
has been operating since October 1, 2010 and which is set to expire
on March 4 contains approximately $530 billion for civilian programs
out of a total budget of $3.54 trillion. With only 7 months of the
fiscal year remaining, the $100 billion House reduction would be
taken from unexpended balances totaling about $300 billion. The
legislation, H.R. 1, prepared by the House Republican leadership
at the behest of extreme fiscal conservatives, would have the effect
of slashing the remaining balances of the NSF and NIH budgets by
almost 10 percent and the DOE Office of Science and NIST by more
than 30 percent. Applied science programs would be hit even harder.
Program reductions are summarized in the links provided on the
Website of the House Appropriations Committee:

http://appropriations.house.gov/index.cfm?FuseAction=PressReleases.Detail&PressRelease_id=261 [Broken].

ACTION REQUIRED: Contact your member of Congress IMMEDIATELY to
emphasize the devastating impact on American science, innovation
and economic growth the House plan would cause. To assist you in
framing your message, we have provided a pre-written message to
your Representative, which you should personalize or rewrite as
you deem appropriate:

http://www.congressweb.com/cweb2/index.cfm/siteid/APSPA/action/TakeAction.Contact/lettergroupid/90.

See web page pointers below for further instruction.

WEB PAGE POINTERS:
(1) While individualizing your letter is not essential, we ask that
you make minor edits to the subject line and the first line of the
text of each email.
(2) If you are a government employee, please do not use government
resources, such as a government computer, to send your communication.
(3) Your browser will take you to a page where you will enter your
name and address.
(4) After entering your address, click the "Edit/Send Email button."
A window with an individual email message to the office will appear.
Click "Send Emails" to transmit the communication.
(5) Electronic submission is preferred.
(6) For further help, email the APS Washington DC office: opa@aps.org.
Just to give an overview if you didn't read it all, there are some major cuts being made by the Republicans in Congress to NSF and DOE, something like reducing it by 10%. That's huge. What does this mean to science being done in the US? I was just reading the NASA thread, two-fish made a relevant comment that it may happen that the US cuts funding now, which stunts our economic growth, which in turn requires Congress to cut more funding and so on.

Basically, are we screwed? Your thoughts.
 
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fss

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As long as there is war there will be some form of government-funded science.
 
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Yes, the United States has little to no chance of recovering back to what it once was. I suggest all scientists attempt to make their way to Canada and Europe.
 
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Well, apparently, the APS enjoys sucking on the government, teet, too.

I guarantee they're cutting a lot of useless projects we shouldn't be funding.

When we can afford it, I'm all for us investing into groundbreaking R&D.
 
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Well, apparently, the APS enjoys sucking on the government, teet, too.
Obviously, we're in serious need of punctuation research. Cause, it ain't, work;ing too, well.
I guarantee they're cutting a lot of useless projects we shouldn't be funding.

When we can afford it, I'm all for us investing into groundbreaking R&D.
And who exactly decides what we should and shouldn't be funding? You?

Yes, the United States has little to no chance of recovering back to what it once was. I suggest all scientists attempt to make their way to Canada and Europe.
Brain drain. That's probably what they want. Get us eggheads out of here...
 
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Pengwuino

Gold Member
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And who exactly decides what we should and shouldn't be funding? You?
I think the basis of this thread answers that. Should it be the APS? Can someone say conflict of interest?
 
6,814
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As long as there is war there will be some form of government-funded science.
Unfortunately/fortunately, there isn't. In the past, you could route science spending through DOD, but that's not working any more. The other problem is that most of the graduate students that do the grunt work of science research are Chinese which leads to some interesting conversations.

A: We must fund science so that we can keep the Chinese from taking over the world!!!!!
B: But doesn't much of the funding go to fund Chinese graduate students that are eventually going to end up in China and work their their military-industrial complex?
A: Ummm.... Urrrr.... Uhhhh.....
 
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I think the basis of this thread answers that. Should it be the APS? Can someone say conflict of interest?
I don't know about APS, but if people who actually know the subject (i. e. scientists) don't have a say in what should or shouldn't be funded, who is capable of making these decisions? Politicians with an MBA or law degree?

I have no conflict of interest since I do not get funded by research grants (being in industry), and I still think cutting NSF, DOE, etc. by such a large margin is extremely shortsighted.
 
6,814
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Well, apparently, the APS enjoys sucking on the government, teet, too.
You say this as if something is wrong it with that. One thing that China has going for it is that "big government project" isn't a dirty word. When there are lots of people unemployed in China, the Chinese government builds a highway. When there are lots of scientists unemployed, the Chinese government opens up a research park.

The reason for this is that there are no meaningful elections in China, and keep people employed means that they don't have time to hold mass demonstrations the way that they did in Egypt.

I guarantee they're cutting a lot of useless projects we shouldn't be funding.
Just because someone is self-interested doesn't mean that they are wrong.

Also, the thing about science is that you don't know what is useless. Science is fundamentally an expensive and wasteful effort. If I could see into the future, I could tell you out of the 100 projects that get funded which are the 98 that go nowhere and 2 that change the world. If you kill 100 projects because 98 are wasteful, then you kill the 2 that end up changing the world.

When we can afford it, I'm all for us investing into groundbreaking R&D.
If you take that attitude, you'll never be able to afford it.

zero research -> no economic growth -> no money for research -> less economic growth -> less money for research

This is total madness.
 
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I don't know about APS, but if people who actually know the subject (i. e. scientists) don't have a say in what should or shouldn't be funded, who is capable of making these decisions? Politicians with an MBA or law degree?
Ultimately, voters make these sorts of decisions.

I have no conflict of interest since I do not get funded by research grants (being in industry), and I still think cutting NSF, DOE, etc. by such a large margin is extremely shortsighted.
I have massive conflicts of interest, but just because I'm self-interested doesn't mean that I'm wrong.
 

Pengwuino

Gold Member
4,854
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Someone made a good suggestion either on this forum or some place else. They said just cut all funding everywhere by 10%. That's how corporations do it, just across the board cuts. Everyone can make a convincing argument why they're the only reason the country's economy exists, so why bother trying to sort through the nonsense.
 
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You say this as if something is wrong it with that. One thing that China has going for it is that "big government project" isn't a dirty word. When there are lots of people unemployed in China, the Chinese government builds a highway. When there are lots of scientists unemployed, the Chinese government opens up a research park.

The reason for this is that there are no meaningful elections in China, and keep people employed means that they don't have time to hold mass demonstrations the way that they did in Egypt.
This isn't China. Big government projects should exist only when necessary and desired, not for any other reason.

Also, the thing about science is that you don't know what is useless. Science is fundamentally an expensive and wasteful effort. If I could see into the future, I could tell you out of the 100 projects that get funded which are the 98 that go nowhere and 2 that change the world. If you kill 100 projects because 98 are wasteful, then you kill the 2 that end up changing the world.
Sure you can. You're misunderstanding my use of the word useless.

http://caps.fool.com/blogs/100-worst-stimulus-projects/428539

We should be careful about what we the taxpayers choose to invest our money into.

Just because someone is self-interested doesn't mean that they are wrong.

If you take that attitude, you'll never be able to afford it.

zero research -> no economic growth -> no money for research -> less economic growth -> less money for research

This is total madness.
Wrong. There's a time when we can afford to invest. Do you know what a balanced budget is?

I'm well-aware of the total productivity factor. Increasing efficiency always leads to economic growth.

Research is not always performed by the government. Don't setup that straw man.
 

chiro

Science Advisor
4,783
127
Often when some group of people want something from the government (ie change laws to suit them, monetary benefits, business deals with government etc), they get a powerful lobby group to lobby for their cause.

Big business do it, maybe the scientists could do it to.

Only shortcoming I see (and it is a big one), is that you need money (money talks) and maybe connections to do it.

Play the political game by the rules that currently exist.
 
1,641
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Someone made a good suggestion either on this forum or some place else. They said just cut all funding everywhere by 10%. That's how corporations do it, just across the board cuts. Everyone can make a convincing argument why they're the only reason the country's economy exists, so why bother trying to sort through the nonsense.
Ridiculous. Worst cop-out ever.
 
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Well, can't argue against that logic.
There's a fundamental difference between corporations and government. Anything unprofitable and extraneous is typically cut before it's necessary to make cuts. That's what businesses do by nature. Government is not like that. It doesn't have to turn a profit. The federal government has been growing excessively and outside its constitutional framework for well over a century. It's infamously grossly inefficient, incompetent, and wasteful. We should take the time to wade through its expenditures and cull what's unnecessary.
 
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Ultimately, voters make these sorts of decisions.
Taxpayers. I'm one of the taxpayers. Are you?
Do they really? I don't remember ever voting on NSF funding or research projects myself. And the average taxpayer is even more clueless about science. How would they make educated choices?

It's just ridiculous to pretend that taxpayers actually make these decisions.
 

Pengwuino

Gold Member
4,854
10
There's a fundamental difference between corporations and government. Anything unprofitable and extraneous is typically cut before it's necessary to make cuts. That's what businesses do by nature. Government is not like that. It doesn't have to turn a profit. The federal government has been growing excessively and outside its constitutional framework for well over a century. It's infamously grossly inefficient, incompetent, and wasteful. We should take the time to wade through its expenditures and cull what's unnecessary.
Except you have to get real. Everyone will try to argue that they don't deserve a cut and what they do is vital to the existence of the universe. The government is like a pathetic child, it wants everyone to be happy. Representatives are that way as well, they want their constituents to love them so they can stay in office. Everyone wins if you can just pass the buck to the next generation.

By the way, what happened to all the "we're mortgaging our children's future!" complaints from when Bush was around spending freely. If our government was a family, our financial adviser would have cut up our credit cards long ago.
 
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Research is not always performed by the government. Don't setup that straw man.
Then who does? Do you have actual data that shows basic research being funded by industry? With the ever shorter ROI requirements in industry, it's hard enough to get targeted research done.
 

atyy

Science Advisor
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A: We must fund science so that we can keep the Chinese from taking over the world!!!!!
B: But doesn't much of the funding go to fund Chinese graduate students that are eventually going to end up in China and work their their military-industrial complex?
A: Ummm.... Urrrr.... Uhhhh.....
How about an argument via diplomacy? But ideally that would mean lots of Americans doing graduate studies in China too.
 
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There's a fundamental difference between corporations and government. Anything unprofitable and extraneous is typically cut before it's necessary to make cuts. That's what businesses do by nature. Government is not like that. It doesn't have to turn a profit.
Right, which is why corporations are awful places to do fundamental research. If you are a corporation, you have a strong incentive to boost profits by shifting your costs to someone else. So you cut basic research and the shift those costs to the government. That actually works pretty well until the government stops doing research.

The federal government has been growing excessively and outside its constitutional framework for well over a century. It's infamously grossly inefficient, incompetent, and wasteful. We should take the time to wade through its expenditures and cull what's unnecessary.
Unnecessary = "someone else can do it"

That works fine as long as someone else can do it.

But in any case, we aren't going to convince each other, and so now it becomes a matter of who can get the most votes. To be quite honest, I don't think that people that agree with me have as many votes as people that agree with you which is why I'm quite worried about the future of the US.
 
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Do they really? I don't remember ever voting on NSF funding or research projects myself.
You can vote for congressman for which NSF funding is either important or not-important. If you show up at your congressman's office with campaign contribution checks from people who think that NSF funding is important, that's how you get involved.

And the average taxpayer is even more clueless about science. How would they make educated choices?
Well, that gives you an argument for public education.....

It's just ridiculous to pretend that taxpayers actually make these decisions.
Politics is really messy, but it boils down to the interaction of a lot of special interest groups. If you think that something is important, get organized, form a PAC, talk to your Congressman, and become educated as to how the process works.

If you don't get involved, then the decisions will be made by the people that do get involved.
 
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So you cut basic research and the shift those costs to the government. That actually works pretty well until the government stops doing research.
It's not just basic research anymore. Now even targeted research is being shifted to universities, although there is some funding to go with it (from corporations). Since government funding is getting sparse, universities take this gladly, but there is often friction. Universities want to publish (obviously), but companies want to keep the results to themselves (also fairly understandable since they paid for it). So lawyers have to get involved (sigh).

If you don't get involved, then the decisions will be made by the people that do get involved.
I completely agree with you, but unfortunately it is the loudest voice (aka the irrational screamers) and special interest groups who usually "win", not necessarily the majority voice. And very often, electing someone who claims to be for science ends up not doing anything or just going against it.
 
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6,814
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This isn't China. Big government projects should exist only when necessary and desired, not for any other reason.
So you say.

We should be careful about what we the taxpayers choose to invest our money into.
The trouble is that if you end up investing in nothing, then you have a problem.

Wrong. There's a time when we can afford to invest. Do you know what a balanced budget is?
Yes. Do you know what supply-side economics is? It's something that Reagan invented.

Research is not always performed by the government. Don't setup that straw man.
Look I've worked in industry for 20 years. It's not a straw man. Industry does not do basic research. They got out of that business in the 1970's because it's expensive and not profitable. This wasn't such a bad thing, because shifting costs from corporations to academia and government labs still meant that the research was done.

Once you kill academia and government labs then no one does the research.
 

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