13 September 2013

Beyond “Bring back the money”

“What’s good for us us is good for society as a whole. So you should fund us. If there’s no funding for us, there will be doom! DOOM, I tell you!”

Hm, there’s an argument that I don’t think politicians will have heard, other than always.

But that seems to be where arguments over American science funding are stopping these days. Honestly, this is an improvement, given that we finally seem to be reaching the point where scientists are realizing that writing more and better grants faster is not going to be the solution to their woes. As Mike the Mad Biologist noted:

Rather than viewing (funding) as a problem requiring political mobilization, the gradual nature of the crisis has led to scientists to run that much faster, write even more grants, and view failures as personal failures, not systemic ones.

So scientists are starting to warn people about how bad sequestration is for science. People are sending this message that the U.S. is hurting this generation of scientists, long-term research projects, drive talent away, cause brain drain...


Politicians are used to people walking in with hat in hand, claiming that what Group X does benefits the common good. They are used prognostications of doom. Much more serious ones. Predictions don’t get much more dire than climate change, which has produced almost zero political action in the United States. And the political climate is not friendly to spending right now.

But there are not many suggestions that I have seen from out in the scientific community besides “Bring back the money.” Fred Grinnell deserves some credit for trying to start a conversation about how the scientific community should be pushing for structural changes in funding. Among his suggestions are proportional funding instead of “first past the post, all or none,” not funding salaries, and looking at “bang for the buck.”

The party may be over. Asking for things to go back to how they were seems based more in wishful thinking than anything else.

Related posts

Call a cab, buddy, the party’s over

When British and Canadians are angrier than Americans

External links

It is time to update US biomedical funding
Boiling frogs, sequestration, and science funding
Unlimited potential vanishing opportunity 

No comments: