Conservatives argue for small, limited government. But arguments for “small government” don’t get a lot of traction among scientists, because funding trends are going in the wrong direction.
The main sources of scientific funding in most of the world is industry and government. Industry still funds a lot of research (which makes up most of the total), but industry is reducing funding for basic research. Industry research often focuses on maximizing the next quarter profits.
Government funding is increasingly the only game in town for basic researchers. I appreciate that there are few rewards for being efficient in the current government granting system. We desperately need alternative ways to fund science.
The #SciFund challenge is the biggest, best promoted effort to find a new way to fund scientific research in a long time. You’d better believe that a lot of other researchers are watching and waiting to see what happens. If it fails, a lot of scientists are going to say, “Crowdfunding can’t work. Therefore, more government funding to science.”
I know many conservatives would rather see government involvement in research not increase. But I hope that science-minded conservatives appreciate that research isn’t free. The most effective way to reduce government involvement in funding research is to provide alternatives. Twiddle the knobs, and make the problem go away.
Conservatives are often charged with being anti-science. I’ve criticized conservative politicians (not least in one of the most popular posts ever on this blog), but I’ve always thought that was an oversimplification. Science has received a lot of bipartisan support. Step up and show people that conservatives can and do support good science.
If the #SciFund challenge succeeds, it will be something you can point as an example of innovative thinking that promotes personal freedom, and that shows people can support science without a government middleman.
If you’re a conservative who supports science, you should go to RocketHub right now and support a #SciFund project!
P.S.—And you should spread the word about #SciFund!