Is the US abandoning its position as a science superpower?

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  • #26
Nobody "abandons" their superpower. You simply get taken over by someone else.

I think the US is still pretty good in Science but Math is another story.

https://www.forbes.com/sites/nickmo...-s-students-slip-further-behind/#78a81d812c31

Both are absolutely necessary but there is some light on the end of the tunnel.

The thing is the way we use to teach Math and Science is changing. Technology is shifting it towards the internet which pretty much makes it anyone's game.

Especially with sites like these:

https://www.studypug.com/algebra-help

or

http://www.math.com

What we need is a change in thinking and a similar movement in the Science industry as well. Perhaps a NASA backed online learning program
or something of that nature. Technology is shifting. We need to shift our mindsets too.
 
  • #27
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I'm not pro war, but putting all that money to science won't advance as much as when they are spent on military and its research.
Hayao - should some of the "incidental" costs of war therefore be counted as part of the cost of funding science? If so, would that diminish the return on investment enough to make the "lesser" advancements of civilian research still look like better value? Dire need during war can get levels of support for research that are otherwise unobtainable, including by poaching and conscripting of talent - but the focus can also be narrower and the flow through to economic and other benefit more constrained and sometimes delayed. The broader benefits to avoiding such dire and urgent need and of conducting science within the bounds of ethical good practice should not be understated. If things were done differently the results, understandably, would be different but I don't think it's certain that they would be less useful or valuable. But how can we know?

It does seem to me (from outside) that the current US government is not against science - more that it has a problem with particular areas of science and I would broadly characterise those as the ones that reveal and warn us of the unwanted consequences of currently profitable human activities, such as environmental and climate sciences, the kinds of science that captains of commerce and industry see as imposing constraints and costs and regulations on their activities. Related to those fields would be those aimed at avoiding some of those unwanted consequences, like R&D into low emissions energy and related technologies, where physics, chemistry and engineering R&D would be fundamental. I would probably characterise climate and emissions as issues of dire and urgent need but the current US President and Congress appear to disagree.

Responsibility avoidance with respect to climate stability looks like it is being aided politically by the de-funding of science programs needed to deliver confidence or certainty that we "know better". The near term monetary value of ignorance can, to those commercial interests affected, be considered greater than the long term value of greater knowledge; the economic alarmist fears of those interests appear to be politically potent and well supported. The longer term impacts of this kind of politically motivated de-funding of inconvenient sciences like climate and disruptive to the status quo ones like low emissions energy - where policy makers of other nations do not - will have consequences; the US will probably not be deprived of the advances achieved elsewhere but it won't be leading the way.
 
  • #29
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Well at least it still had LIGO - though I guess future developments will be in Europe and India?
LIGO will continue to take data and improve its precision in the following years - unless someone in charge decides he doesn't "believe" in gravitational waves and cuts funding, of course. Meanwhile VIRGO in Italy is nearly done with its upgrades and will join soon, KAGRA in Japan and the Indian LIGO-variant will come later. A lot of international collaboration with detectors in 4 countries.
The US left the space-based detector LISA (now eLISA), which is now developed by ESA alone.
I'm not pro war, but putting all that money to science won't advance as much as when they are spent on military and its research.
Military research is science. Wars are reasons to invest more money in science, but do we really need that reason? Can't we set more peaceful goals of research - still getting the same side-products but also a main product better than a destroyed country?
I do want to point out that HEP has a problem that goes beyond the US abandoning the subject, which is that the LHC has not really found anything truly new.
The Higgs boson, ending 50 years of search.
Tetra- and pentaquarks, ending decades of confusion about their existence.
And it just started taking data at 13 TeV.
The Higgs boson was expected, sure, but if you go by unexpected particle discoveries, neutrino oscillations have been the only really surprising thing since 1965.
 
  • #30
Aufbauwerk 2045
I hope this thread is also in the banned and soon to be closed category.

Let's consider the opening quote.

"China is aggressively attempting to displace the US as the world's scientific superpower, and the US is aggressively attempting to abandon it's scientific superpower status, while Europe seems all but recovered from WWII. ...."

""China is aggressively attempting to displace the US as the world's scientific superpower." China may try to become the world's scientific superpower, but name one area of science where it leads every other nation.

"The US is aggressively attempting to abandon it's scientific superpower status." Really? Does "the US" in this context mean the government, academia, industry, the military, society in general, or what? In any case, does anyone actually believe this claim?

"Europe seems all but recovered from WWII." What does mean, and what is the relevance to the main question of this thread?

As far as these generalizations about American students being lazy, feeling entitled, and so on, I never saw a single American STEM student in college or graduate school who was lazy, or felt he or she was entitled to success without working for it.

As far as being discouraged, perhaps some STEM students have seen the video where American lawyers are discussing ways to help American companies avoid hiring American tech workers, without breaking the law. Hopefully the American students won't be discouraged, and instead will join together and start their own company. There is no legal requirement to outsource or hire H1B workers.

Finally, I would say the best test is not a standardized academic test, but what actually gets done. Perhaps the USSR had higher standardized math and science tests, and I've even given an example of an excellent high school math book from the USSR which is more advanced than American textbooks for the same age group. But who landed on the moon? The USSR tried, but failed.
 
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  • #31
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We are on the precipice of the greatest scientific revolution in human history getting a glimpse of what going over will be. Whoever decides to fund massive computer infrastructure and specialized AI the most will be the dominate scientific, economic, and standard of life leader in 50 years. An AI capable of out predicting the free market better than anyone else will slowly start siphoning off the world's economy, and it'll only snowball from there.

Quantum computers will make deep neural nets this complex available almost instantly. Traditional computers will be able to do it, it'll just take another couple of decades.
 
  • #32
Dr. Courtney
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I'm not worried. I view most science as collaborative rather than competitive, and I also reject dollars spent as a measure of accomplishment. The US educational system has proven that it is easy to spend a lot more money without much improvement.

The US is spending plenty on science, especially when you consider private investments and not just tax dollars. There is much more room to debate and discuss the relative balance in spending between different sectors of science. I like the meme: spending in physics does not seem to have the same inherent value as fighting disease and increasing the food supply. If you are spending tax payer dollars, you would be better served to be working on projects the tax payer cares about, or be able to educate them to the point of caring.

Since "It is not one world" (as Paul Harvey says), I would recognize scientific issues relating to national defense as the one area of science that needs to be more competitive than collaborative in an international sense. Spending can be measured, but it is not a good metric. A lot of the work product is kept secret from the public for national security reasons, but sometimes I do suspect an additional motive for keeping it quiet is that the US is falling behind. But this is a triangulation based on observations of DoD scientific culture rather than firsthand knowledge. The lack of real scientific mastery among the DoD folks making decisions on how money is spent is my biggest concern. This seems more of an educational and political failure than a scientific one. But the scientific and military failures seem like likely downstream consequences.
 
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  • #33
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The US educational system has proven that it is easy to spend a lot more money without much improvement.
Yes! Excellent point. When you have semi-literate voters, you get semi-functional governance. Or as a synonym: US government.
The collateral damage is defunding research and using college for business training rather than traditional disciplines.

Ken Anderson (ed specialist speaker ted.com) indicates the driver for education is to produce the kinds of workers trained for what business wants and needs. With a 25% overall dropout rate in US secondary schools, businesses I do not see businesses getting huge numbers of really useful human capital anymore.

Source: https://www.dosomething.org/us/facts/11-facts-about-high-school-dropout-rates
Check sources link.
 
  • #34
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..As you mentioned the moon landing: Where is the US rocket that can deliver humans to space?
The first Moon landings pushed technology limits, established technological dominance in manned space travel, the theme of this thread. Delivering people to the ISS has become a taxi service, if a very sophisticated service. If that service is outsourced for a few years between end of life for the Shuttle and the development of Orion or Dragon, so be it. And, if ISS taxi service does anything to hamper the real point of manned space flight, travel to other planets, then Im happy to see ISS taxi outsourced,

Delivering people to another planet, that should be the main point of putting people in space in my view, and I hope the US keeps pushing forward there.
 
  • #35
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You can use a racecar as taxi, but not a taxi as (good) racecar. But having no car at all is even worse. You have to pay others to get to your workplace, and if you have only one option you have to pay a lot of money for that basic service.

Orion won't deliver people to another planet. It can do the taxi service. With a more powerful rocket, it can also go around the Moon. Landing on the Moon or going to Mars needs other components. Components that just exist as CGI.
The current US plans are behind the achievements of Apollo. Going to Mars in 20 years? That was an idea during the Apollo project as well.
 
  • #36
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You just need to look at the PISA results:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Programme_for_International_Student_Assessment#PISA_2015

The top countries for math, science, reading: Singapore, Hong Kong, Japan.

I've taught in high schools in Australia. The kids don't apply them selves to their work - they are pathetic and think the world owed them a living.
The major breakthroughs are generally not done by the average citizens. What I'd like to see within these stats are min/max as well as standard deviation. I'd imagine the U.S has a very high standard deviation from the mean, and min/max values that span the entire spectrum of averages from the countries. We have nearly every genetic variation of human living in this country. There are also different developmental tracks that people take. For example, I was not skilled at math when I was in high school. When I went back to college for engineering, I was quite skilled. I conclude that I was underdeveloped for my age when I was in high school. Does every nationality have the same developmental track? I would say that they don't. A better measure would be a test administered to the people every year between ages 15 and 55. Those results would be far more telling.
 
  • #37
mheslep
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You can use a racecar as taxi, but not a taxi as (good) racecar. But having no car at all is even worse. You have to pay others to get to your workplace, and if you have only one option you have to pay a lot of money for that basic service
Which is a cost efficiency argument, not a science supremacy argument. I don't think the argument wins on cost either, as developing a new national manned vehicle to orbit is also expensive for government, and private industry (SpaceX) should be there less expensively in a few years.

Orion won't deliver people to another planet. It can do the taxi service. With a more powerful rocket, it can also go around the Moon. Landing on the Moon or going to Mars needs other components
Right, my mistake
 
  • #38
StatGuy2000
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Yes! Excellent point. When you have semi-literate voters, you get semi-functional governance. Or as a synonym: US government.
The collateral damage is defunding research and using college for business training rather than traditional disciplines.

Ken Anderson (ed specialist speaker ted.com) indicates the driver for education is to produce the kinds of workers trained for what business wants and needs. With a 25% overall dropout rate in US secondary schools, businesses I do not see businesses getting huge numbers of really useful human capital anymore.

Source: https://www.dosomething.org/us/facts/11-facts-about-high-school-dropout-rates
Check sources link.
At the risk of getting off-topic, the bolded statement in your quote above is not correct according to your very own source, from the website DoSomething.org. The website gives a list of "facts", of which Fact #2 states the following:

2. About 25% of high school freshmen fail to graduate from high school on time.
(Source: Silver, David, Marisa Saunders, and Estela Zarate. "What Factors Predict High School Graduation in the Los Angeles Unified School District." Attendance Counts. Accessed February 18, 2015..

Whereas, see Fact #4 in the same website:

4. The dropout rate has fallen 3% from 1990 to 2010 (12.1% to 7.4%).
(Source: U.S. Department of Education. "Fast Facts: Dropout Rates." Institute of Education Sciences. Accessed February 26, 2014, https://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/display.asp?id=16.)

Firstly, the website does not even claim that the overall dropout rate is 25%, as you claim, only that 25% of high school freshmen failed to graduate on time.

Second, the numbers from Fact #2 and Fact #4 didn't seem to add up to me (25% of Grade 9 students didn't graduate on time, but overall dropout rates ranged from 7.4-12.1%?). So I did some digging into the sources above.

Fact #4 is based on data collected from the Current Population Survey, conducted by the US Census Bureau, and published on the website of the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), which states that the status dropout rate (i.e. the percentage of 16 to 24 year olds who are not enrolled in school and have not earned a high school credential, whether a diploma or GED), had dropped from 12.1% in 1990 to 6.5% in 2014 (which might have been 7.4% back in 2010). Given the source level above, without further reason to believe otherwise, one have good reason to believe that "Fact #4" is actually a fact.

Fact #2, on the other hand, is based on policy regarding graduation rates in schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District, a particular educational district in Los Angeles (not the country as a whole, as somehow implied on DoSometing.org). Specifically, the 25% number quoted is based on the overall dropout or withdrawal rate among the set of freshmen students failing to move on to the 10th grade (US), the other 75% consisted of those who were repeating the 9th Grade (US). In actual fact, the overall graduation rate in that school district was only 48%. So any way you slice it, "Fact #2" is not at all a fact, and the website got it wrong. I find it astounding by how far DoSomething.org could have gotten this wrong, especially after listing the source!

At any rate, it should be fairly clear that the more reliable estimate of the true overall dropout rate in the US is closer to 6.5%, rather than 25%.
 
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  • #39
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I agree with you about the importance of biology. Specifically, I believe understanding how our body works, and being able to fix it, is the most important topic of all. But I wonder if LHC funding takes any significant funding away from biology. That's a question, not a statement. Maybe someone knows the figures.

In any event, I don't think it's an either/or situation when it comes to science funding. We need physics, chemistry, and biology. Without physics research, we would not even have the X-ray, much less the more advanced scanners we have today.

We really need to focus on how to reduce military spending world wide. If we humans ever advance beyond our war-making phase, and dedicate all that money and human effort to science, we might be able to figure out how to extend our lifetime indefinitely, instead of figuring out how to reduce it.
Those quantum leaps in medical technology in the future will indeed be made through vast knowledge and understanding of physics. All phenomena in biology can be refined into physics. All biological knowledge that does not include the associated physics principles is superficial representation. Everything in biology is a manifestation of physics. Every concept in every field of science is a manifestation of physics.
 
  • #40
Ygggdrasil
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Those quantum leaps in medical technology in the future will indeed be made through vast knowledge and understanding of physics. All phenomena in biology can be refined into physics. All biological knowledge that does not include the associated physics principles is superficial representation. Everything in biology is a manifestation of physics. Every concept in every field of science is a manifestation of physics.
All of chemistry is, in a very straightforward way, a manifestation of physics. The properties and reactivities of all substances can be represented by the Schrodinger equation of the particular molecule you are interested in. However, because the Schrodinger equation cannot be exactly solved for anything more complex than a one-electron system, physics has not been able to aid much in discovering new reactions or synthetic pathways (rather, it has almost always been used as a post-facto means of explaining things people already knew). Physics explains everything in theory, but in practice, physics uses very simplified toy systems compared to the level of complexity chemists and biologists tackle in their work.
 
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  • #41
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I honestly think it's just blind conjecture to wonder about which scientific field is going to benefit us the most or how funding towards non-commercial goals (or even goals with a practical application) are going to benefit us. Several examples have already been brought up demonstrating this. Going to the moon has never directly benefited anyone, but the infrastructure and engineering that was developed during that time has partially enabled the information age by way of satellites.

No one could have guessed the significance of Ampere or Biot or Faraday's work in electricity and magnetism. We can't assume we know what things are going to be useful now either. Obviously money is limited, but I think if we spent a little less on, say, obnoxious political ads and a little more on science, we'd all be better off.
 
  • #42
StatGuy2000
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I honestly think it's just blind conjecture to wonder about which scientific field is going to benefit us the most or how funding towards non-commercial goals (or even goals with a practical application) are going to benefit us. Several examples have already been brought up demonstrating this. Going to the moon has never directly benefited anyone, but the infrastructure and engineering that was developed during that time has partially enabled the information age by way of satellites.

No one could have guessed the significance of Ampere or Biot or Faraday's work in electricity and magnetism. We can't assume we know what things are going to be useful now either. Obviously money is limited, but I think if we spent a little less on, say, obnoxious political ads and a little more on science, we'd all be better off.
This is getting off-topic, but you did bring it up so I would like to mention that I've posted about this before (and not sure, with the new rules, whether I'm permitted to post this, but here goes). The best way for us not to spend money on obnoxious political ads in the US is to bring about a constitutional amendment banning money from politics. See the work being done by community activist groups such as Wolf PAC.

http://www.wolf-pac.com/
 
  • #43
I don't think this administration will be a huge promoter of STEM research funding, but I don't think there will be any massive cuts either. The current proposed budget does cut into many programs by 1-31%, the least cut are NASA (1%) and Energy (6%), in favor of defense and veterans. Some see greater cuts like health (16%), education (14%) and state (29%), which could have a larger impact toward research for these domains and programs.

Source:
https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/03/15/us/politics/trump-budget-proposal.html?_r=0

In reality, the US is still the spearhead of science; although I think it is a tragedy that there is not a super collider in the US today. The education and innovation is still driven from the US, and funding is still largely provided by non-government agencies, or private investors. Some of the hubs of world research begin at many of the top notch US based universities. Experiment facilities like NASA (ISS, Hubble etc..), NIF, Berkeley ALS, the SNS, and so much more.

Sources:
http://undsci.berkeley.edu/article/who_pays
https://psmag.com/what-are-the-benefits-of-government-funded-research-5559aeb1d1c4#.j2vxqzlsx

Ranking of R&D per country in $B (2013):
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_research_and_development_spending

Here is an interactive chart for fun:
https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/best-countries-science-interactive/
 
  • #44
Ygggdrasil
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I don't think this administration will be a huge promoter of STEM research funding, but I don't think there will be any massive cuts either. The current proposed budget does cut into many programs by 1-31%, the least cut are NASA (1%) and Energy (6%), in favor of defense and veterans. Some see greater cuts like health (16%), education (14%) and state (29%), which could have a larger impact toward research for these domains and programs.

Source:
https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/03/15/us/politics/trump-budget-proposal.html?_r=0
Looking at the department level figures presented in the NY Times article does not tell the whole story. Many of the cuts are specifically targeted at agencies within the departments that perform research (especially the types of research to which the administration is ideologically opposed). For example, while the DOE faces a 6% cut, its office of science faces a 20% budget cut, and the budget completely eliminates the ARPA-E program for energy research (these cuts to the science arms of the DOE are partially offset by increased spending on nuclear weapons programs):
President Donald Trump's first budget request to Congress, to be released at 7 a.m. Thursday, will call for cutting the 2018 budget of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) by $6 billion, or nearly 20%, according to sources familiar with the proposal. The Department of Energy's (DOE's) Office of Science would lose $900 million, or nearly 20% of its $5 billion budget. The proposal also calls for deep cuts to the research programs at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and a 5% cut to NASA's earth science budget. And it would eliminate DOE's roughly $300 million Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy.

There appears to be no mention, however, of the National Science Foundation (NSF) in a 62-page document outlining the proposal obtained by The Washington Post. NSF's budget request may not become clear until the White House fleshes out the details of its spending plan over the next 2 months.
http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2017/03/nih-doe-office-science-face-deep-cuts-trumps-first-budget
 
  • #46
Aufbauwerk 2045
If we assume that being a science superpower implies, among other things, having the best scientific minds, then perhaps whoever wins the race towards developing an artificial super brain will leap far ahead. At least until others acquire the super brain technology. Then perhaps it will come down to whoever can afford to build the most advanced science and technology infrastructure.

In any case, it's interesting to follow news about the simulation of the human brain. I came across these older articles. It's quite exciting to read about how some group has built a complete rat brain, and at least part of a cat brain, until we read that things are not quite what the hype implies.

http://spectrum.ieee.org/tech-talk/...ue-brain-project-leader-angry-about-cat-brain

https://www.wired.com/2009/11/darpas-simulated-cat-brain-project-a-scam-top-neuroscientist/

http://www.seeker.com/ibm-cat-brain-computer-debunked-discovery-news-1766503542.html

Perhaps someone can link to newer stories?
 
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  • #47
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Looking at the department level figures presented in the NY Times article does not tell the whole story. Many of the cuts are specifically targeted at agencies within the departments that perform research (especially the types of research to which the administration is ideologically opposed). For example, while the DOE faces a 6% cut, its office of science faces a 20% budget cut, and the budget completely eliminates the ARPA-E program for energy research (these cuts to the science arms of the DOE are partially offset by increased spending on nuclear weapons programs):

http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2017/03/nih-doe-office-science-face-deep-cuts-trumps-first-budget
Here are the latest proposed budget cuts.

The Trump White House is proposing to cut $18 billion from a variety of domestic programs and foreign aid accounts in ongoing talks on a wrap-up spending package for the ongoing 2017 budget year. The cuts — to education, infrastructure, medical and scientific research, and numerous grants to state and local governments — are in addition to cuts proposed earlier in the month for the upcoming budget year. I can't find the link to the article I read this morning, but it was suggested that the money from the cuts would go towards building the fence.

The cuts are unofficial and have been given a chilly welcome on Capitol Hill. They include:

—$1.1 billion from the Agriculture Department, including $363 million from food aid to poor nations.

—$1.2 billion from the departments of Commerce, Justice, and State, including $350 million from National Science Foundation grants and $210 million for help states keep immigrants in the country illegally in prison.

—$1.8 billion from energy and water accounts, including $516 million from energy efficiency and renewable energy.

—$714 million from the Interior Department, including $51 million from rural western school districts.

—$7.3 billion from the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education departments, including $1.3 billion from Pell Grants, $1.2 billion in grants to reduce class sizes, and $1.2 billion from NIH.

—$2.9 billion from foreign aid, including $562 million from economic development assistance, $200 million in military aid to "high income" countries, and $547 million from multilateral development banks.

—$2.7 billion from transportation, housing and development, including $1.5 billion from flexible community development funds, $499 million from transportation projects, and $447 million from transit projects.
http://finance.yahoo.com/news/latest-trump-budget-cuts-glance-181600082--finance.html;_ylt=AwrBT4Ri4dpYyCcA3hxXNyoA;_ylu=X3oDMTEyMzYxbmo0BGNvbG8DYmYxBHBvcwMxBHZ0aWQDQjM2OTNfMQRzZWMDc3I- [Broken]
 
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  • #48
Ygggdrasil
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@Evo Here's some info on the specifics of how the newly proposed cuts would affect the NIH:
According to the summary, the NIH cuts would wipe $50 million from funding for IDeA grants, which are intended to help spread biomedical research geographically across the United States. The rest, nearly $1.2 billion, would more broadly reduce research grant funding.

The Trump administration is also proposing a $314 million cut at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention through reductions to occupational safety and public health preparedness grants, as well as domestic and global HIV/AIDS programs.

The mental health block grants administered by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration would also be cut by $100 million under the White House proposal.
https://www.statnews.com/2017/03/28/budget-nih-cuts/

The administration is clearly signaling that it does not view scientific research as a priority for the nation.

I guess I should start learning Chinese.
 
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  • #49
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Who wrote that?
and $210 million [reduction] for help states keep immigrants in the country illegally in prison
That is certainly not the phrasing of the corresponding budget item.


The overall reduced funding for research, not limited to climate science, is notable and worrisome.
 

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