Mark Gritter (markgritter) wrote,
Mark Gritter

Republican War On Science Continues Unabated

Eric Cantor's "YouCut", soliciting citizen input on wasteful spending, has picked its first area to focus on: the National Science Foundation. The introductory video lists a couple programs that sound a little silly, but are not unreasonable research projects. Realistic computer sound generation, for example, is much less advanced than computer graphics. So research on "modeling the sound of objects breaking" is a good, challenging research problem, and of course the researchers listed use in video games and movies as a potential application. If they had said "there is no practical application" then the grant proposal looks pretty stupid, doesn't it?

The most obvious problem is that deciding which research projects are worthwhile is hard. The NSF might not do a good job of it, but neither does anybody else. To make the process a political football instead is not really going to improve matters.

Less obviously, grants are a mechanism for funding science education and young scientists. My advisor was fond of making this point--- a big chunk of the money that goes to the principal investigators for a project ends up paying for students to research. A student (graduate or undergraduate) who works on a "silly" project for a couple years still learns how to do research, and his or her next project may have a huge economic benefit. Even a bad research project isn't a complete waste.

But, hey, the NSF was appropriated $6.926 billion for 2010, a whopping 0.19% of the federal budget. It's still more significant than the $0.237 billion in earmarks that they've been making so much noise about this month. I'm sure that starving the next generation of engineers and scientists is totally worth it, and a totally reasonable priority for Republican leadership. (Not to mention that there might be less climate science in the future, as a result! Talk about win-win!)

Scott Aaronson says "Cut his project"
Tags: politics, rant, science
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