Saturday, March 15, 2014

Private Funding of $cience

“For better or worse, the practice of science in the 21st century is becoming shaped less by national priorities or by peer-review groups and more by the particular preferences of individuals with huge amounts of money.”

-- Steven A. Edwards, a policy analyst at the American Association for the Advancement of Science, quoted in the New York Times.
The article also says that US federal government of basic science has fallen from $40 billion in 2009 to $30 last year, and that private donors now account for about 30% of MIT's research funding. Worth reading.

Is it better to tolerate high income inequality in the hope the rich will fund (some of) what the government can't, or have less income inequality and a broader support base for what society needs?

1 comment:

Frank1123581321 said...

David: Do you really believe that funding for basic science research has dropped 25% ($10B) since 2009 simply because this "fact" was published in the NYT? Isn't it worth checking such sensational information before repeating it? It turns out that the Obama stimulus plan included an extra $10B for the administration's favorite science programs that has all been spent Most of the whining about closed labs and job losses arises from the end of this one-time stimulus spending. Such temporary funding is a lousy way to build science programs AND an inefficient way to stimulate the economy.

According to the AAAS, the extra $10B was spent in 2010, not 2009, so the NYT article may be factually wrong - in addition to reporting misleading cherry-picked information. Except for 2010, funding for basic research has remained constant in real terms at $30B-$33B (2013 dollars) since 2003.–-historical-data

Total spending on R&D is about $140B PER YEAR, or about the TOTAL fortunes of the four richest men in the group who are allegedly "privatizing" American science. Of course, this is nothing new; rich Americans have always supported science. The first 100-inch telescope (Mt WIlson) was funded by Carnegie, the first 200-inch telescope (Palomar) by Rockefeller, and the first 10-meter telescopes (Mauna Kea) by Keck two decades ago. Now we are supposed to be concerned because Gordon Moore is funding the first 30-meter telescope???