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Palin and genetic research

  1. Oct 26, 2008 #1

    Monique

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    My toes curled when she made the derogatory remark below: how on earth can you say something like that?

    Palin: "We’ve got a three trillion dollar budget, and Congress spends some 18 billion dollars a year on earmarks for political pet projects. That’s more than the shortfall to fully fund the IDEA. And where does a lot of that earmark money end up? It goes to projects having little or nothing to do with the public good—things like fruit fly research in Paris, France. I kid you not."

     
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  3. Oct 26, 2008 #2

    Bystander

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    On the other hand --- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Golden_Fleece_Award --- election year hyperbole is election year hyperbole --- compare it to BO's remarks in adds in which he states that banks and oil companies are "ripping off America."

    You aren't faced with the nightmare of trying to decipher whether there's a functional candidate behind either of the total nonsense smokescreens put up by the two major campaigns --- consider yourself fortunate.
     
  4. Oct 26, 2008 #3

    Monique

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    That's true: I cannot influence the outcome, but whatever will be decided will impact people in many countries. To think that a future-to-be policy maker laughs at people doing 'pet projects' researching fruit flies, and announcing that funds will be cut.. I'd definitely think twice about going to the States to conduct research. It baffled me that she could say such a thing, I would think that they'd be better informed.
     
  5. Oct 26, 2008 #4

    LowlyPion

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    I think Palin's comments are for the most part born out of ignorance and a good measure of opportunism in looking to translate her fiscally responsible image to the Federal Budget as she has in her theatrical State budget cuts. Sadly without bothering to understand the background of the specific fruit fly research, she came off flat and ill-informed. If anything it underscores why there are such things as Science Advisers and staffers to research issues. Anti-intellectualism is likely an easy target for her apparent base of supporters.
     
  6. Oct 26, 2008 #5

    Bystander

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    You've done research in the states; did you think twice before coming over? Bill Proxmire was a dem. He laughed. He DID cut off lots of research projects. No one ever thought of him as "informed."

    For laughs, comment on http://online.wsj.com/article/SB122359549477921201.html?mod=googlenews_wsj
     
  7. Oct 27, 2008 #6

    Ivan Seeking

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    Palin seems to be a hybrid of the worst of Bush and Cheney: She has Bush's mind and Cheney's soul.

    A great many of us are terrified at the prospect that Palin has any kind of future in national politics. Hopefully we will never hear about her again after Nov 4th. Her popularity has plummeted from a month ago as people have learned more about her.
     
  8. Oct 27, 2008 #7

    Moonbear

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    I think you'd all be sorely mistaken if you think only Palin or Republicans have this level of ignorance about science and scientific research. Palin just makes the mistake of voicing her ignorance, but in a way, I prefer that, because that can then give an opportunity to open dialog on it to educate her (whether or not she'd listen any better than the other bricks sitting in Congress, I don't know yet). It's much better she says it now so scientists and science advisors can intervene and give her a briefing on why fruit fly genetics is so important and how it has informed our understanding of human genetics and disease BEFORE she has the power to cut the research budget further.

    On every grant application written, there is a section usually called something like a "Summary Statement" at the very beginning. The instructions are to write this so an 8th grader can understand it, and to use it to highlight the importance of the research to human health or other more broad implications. There is a reason for this section, and that reason is so that when Congress is reviewing budgets and looking at what is getting funded, it is written at a level they can understand. Yes, it is sad that the people who hold the purse strings for scientific funding have to be given explanations of the work at the level of a high school dropout to understand it, but that is reality. Unfortunately, it's a self-perpetuating reality, since people who don't understand science also don't understand the need to promote early science education in the primary and secondary school systems.

    We've had similar problems in the past. Long before the Bush administration, every few years, someone in Congress gets the bug in their butt that any research on "sexual behavior" should have funding revoked. All of us who study reproductive biology and neural mechanisms for the associated behaviors know this happens (note how I just phrased that), so we NEVER use the phrase "sexual behavior" in our grant applications. That way, when they do a keyword search to decide whose budget to cut, ours won't be the ones that pop up.

    The other sad reality right now is that it doesn't matter who gets elected for the next 4 years. The economy is too bad to think scientific research is going to recover in this time. I expect it to get worse before it gets better...though it's frightening to think it can get worse.

    NIH has already changed its application rules to adjust to the shriveled budget. No longer do researchers get three chances on an application (the initial proposal and two chances at revisions to address reviewer critiques), it's just been cut back to only one revision. That's really going to be harsh in the first year or two, because grants originally submitted up until now are being grandfathered in, so we'll have second revisions competing with applications that only get one chance at revision.

    I would expect that in the present economy and with the current problems facing the country, the lion's share of public research funding will be going to defense and energy related research. Although, if McCain/Palin end up in office, I can envision Palin's pet projects would include setting aside funds for studying things like Down Syndrome (which, ironically, is a genetic disorder and could benefit from some of that fruit fly research...someone just needs to explain this to her).

    Every administration has their pet projects. Research funding has never been static. I don't see that as a negative though. When funds are limited, instead of spreading a little bit of money to a lot of people doing a lot of different things, so nothing really ever gets accomplished, a lot of people focusing on one area of research get a lot of money for a few years, so there's a good chance of pushing forward knowledge in that area. And, then, in a few years, the winds change, a new election is held, and another area of research gets emphasized for a while.
     
  9. Oct 27, 2008 #8

    Ivan Seeking

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    Perhaps, but the Republicans have become the party of anti-intellectualism and anti-science.
     
  10. Oct 27, 2008 #9
  11. Oct 27, 2008 #10

    LowlyPion

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    I don't know that they are necessarily against intellectualism and science.

    I do however think that their strategy to office does pander to the ignorant that also embrace Biblical literalism. And this can't be a good climate for reproductive science or gene based medical technologies or climatologists and environmentalists in general.

    With such blindly ambitious and personally incurious people as Palin actually rising to head the ticket and advantage themselves on this far right brand of populism, I think we can say that should they be successful cuts should be expected. Given the current hunger for change and McCain's and Palin's sorry whiney performances, I think the chance that they would be able to affect much is diminishing.
     
  12. Oct 27, 2008 #11

    LowlyPion

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    I think that video is a little biased. (Actually a lot biased.)

    For one thing I didn't notice that any of those things cited is the subject of the specific research that she ridicules.

    But as it turns out the truth is bad enough.

    As I understand it from the article cited below, this particular study Palin is talking about is for the olive fruit fly - a crop pest in the US. And the reason for the $750,000 study is for the study of how this pest may be controlled in order to safeguard the growing olive oil industry in the US. (Now admittedly this is a problem in California, that Palin likely thinks is not exactly a pro-American part of the country because they won't be voting for her, but let's leave that aside.)

    Domestic olive oil demand has been growing with health consciousness. The reason it is being studied in France is because they have experience studying this fruit fly for decades in protecting the crops throughout Europe.

    From my point of view, this is precisely the kind of benefit that I think comes from Government funded research. Not only the development of commercial activities in developing a market for products, that reduces imports, but also promotes better health, lessening perhaps the impact of disease costs in real terms and lost productivity.

    Here is an article from Salon that addresses these issues and I have drawn from above.
    http://www.salon.com/env/feature/2008/10/27/sarah_palin_fruit_flies/index.html
     
  13. Oct 27, 2008 #12
    And how do you know this is what she was citing, and not any of the other citations mentioned in the video?
     
  14. Oct 27, 2008 #13

    LowlyPion

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    Because I am relying on the observation of the article that this study was previously cited by one of McCain's favorite sources the Citizens Against Government Waste as being a wasteful study underway in France.
    I am not aware that many of the 65,000 citations on Drosophilidae are recently funded by the US and brought up in the video are being conducted in France as Palin was calling out.
     
    Last edited: Oct 27, 2008
  15. Oct 27, 2008 #14

    Monique

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    Fortunately I was 19 and went for the adventure, politics didn't have anything to do with it. The reality is that it is really difficult to get research budgets, so you need to take the research environment into consideration. I wouldn't be the first to think twice.
    I didn't want to suggest that it's only Palin (but she did make the comment).
    That's right, I guess that's politics..
     
  16. Oct 27, 2008 #15

    Moonbear

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    I don't think that's true at all. Democrats are also not supporting much funding of science. I don't think it is anti-science, they're just prioritizing other funding ahead of science funding. Politicians don't understand science because they were politics majors or history majors or whatever it was they majored in when in school that was not science. This is a flaw of the scientific community as well, that we seem to want to assume that people without a Ph.D. in such a difficult field should understand everything we do even though we had to spend so much time training to get a Ph.D. in it and then many more years of research to really understand it ourselves. People would rather say they are ignorant and anti-science rather than recognizing that they simply have never had reason to be educated to the depth needed to appreciate the importance of what scientists do. Of course it's easier just to throw around mud, but that isn't going to accomplish anything.
     
  17. Oct 27, 2008 #16

    LowlyPion

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    Probably the larger issue is that the low hanging fruit, is no longer hanging so low. Some science projects require many more resources, more expensive equipment and more effort than years ago. With the world economy being strained, I'd say science without demonstrable payback is going to be rationed against the demands of world economies more tightly than the past.

    In all honesty some things don't need to be known now. They are intellectually interesting of course, but detecting gravity waves for instance, or exploring Mars or finding the Higgs may be luxuries that don't need to be funded now. The answers will still be there when there's money and the will to find them. Of course those hungry for Nobels in their lifetimes may find it frustrating. But hey ... not my problem.
     
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