Friday, May 03, 2013

Why Politicians Shouldn't Be in Charge of Research Funding

Steven Novella blogs at Science-Based Medicine. Yesterday he was upset about American politicians who want to restrict research grants to projects that "advance the national health, prosperity, or welfare, and to secure the national defense" [Politics of Public Research Funding]. The goal is to put a stop to silly basic science research like studying sex in snails.

Here's the quote of the day from Steven Novella.
I have noticed, however, that researchers have become reflexively good at making up plausible-sounding possible applications for their basic science research – as if they have to constantly justify their research. Every basic-science study that looks at viruses, therefore, may one day cure the common cold. Anything dealing with cell replication may be a cure for cancer. Any materials advance will lead to supercomputers or superlight vehicles. All brain research, apparently, might one day cure Alzheimer’s disease.

I would love for a scientist to say something to the effect of “I have no idea what, if any, practical use this research might lead to, but the knowledge is really cool”. I guess you just don’t say that to a grant committee, however.


14 comments :

  1. Novella has left out the argument: "This research will bring about a Kuhnian paradigm shift."

    I'm so damn sick of Thomas Kuhn.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You are not the only one.
      http://judgestarling.tumblr.com/post/49371457762/paradigm-shifting-and-necrophiliac-fantasies-about

      Delete
  2. If "duplicative research" had been disallowed back in 1989, we would have cold fusion.

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  3. What's gonna happen to the "warm pond" if it is not that warm anymore if they have to chose between TE and feeding millions of the hungry? You don't think it is possible because you don't live in EU and have comfortable jobs studying fruit fly evolution that has been pretty much a joke.

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    Replies
    1. Well Dominic, if you sit in that puddle of urine long enough, that "warm pond" is going to turn into a "cold pond".

      Delete
    2. @oberski
      Don't be naive! They are selling you bullshit and you are falling for it. The "pond" bullshit is instead "we have no idea but we like it because we DON'T WANT TO ACKNOWLEDGE THE PROBLEM ". We would like it to be true but it does not work. Well, shit it is.

      Delete
  4. Ok, whoever is programming the Dominic random text generation software will have to go into troubleshooting mode. TE cannot sensibly stand for either "transposable element" or "theistic evolution" in that sentence, nor any of the other options: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/TE ("Thioescaline, a psychoactive drug" perhaps?). And what does the European Union have to do with this?

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    Replies
    1. In EU scientist studying 'nothing' don't get the funding anymore as the unemployment rate reaches 25-30%. Do you think the unemployed and the starving ones care about why the fruit fly is not evolving in the lab?

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    2. Do you want me to explain to you how ignorance of basic science is the ultimate cause of the 30% unemployment rate? Because there is a causal chain that starts from that ignorance goes through creating an unsustainable socioeconomic system built on assumption that are in complete contradiction with the laws of nature as we know them, eventually leading to the inevitable crash, of which the 30% unemployment rate is just one symptom.

      Delete
    3. Unemployment in the EU isn't 30%, where is Dominic getting this gibberish?

      Every post he makes establishes himself as a complete know-nothing. Anyone remember his copy-pasted "DNA Challenge" questions?

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    4. Anyone remember his copy-pasted "DNA Challenge" questions?

      Well, Dominic made the mistake to link to the very place where he copied it from. So, ignorant, dishonest, and stupid would be appropriate descriptions of this Dominic character. I wonder if Dominic might be some cruel joke about creationists.

      Delete
  5. Do you want me to explain to you how ignorance of basic science is the ultimate cause of the 30% unemployment rate?

    I'd be interested to hear... Also, would the reverse also be true?

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  6. Need another reason that politicians shouldn't be in charge of research funding? Here in Canada, our creationist Minister of Science and Technology has decided to cut funding to basic research and instead divert National Research Council funds to industrial and commercial projects only:

    http://www.cbc.ca/news/technology/story/2013/05/07/technology-nrc-business.html

    ReplyDelete