Science Funding Gets A Boost
    By Hank Campbell | November 22nd 2011 12:08 PM | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
    Confirmation bias prevents academia from giving Republicans a fair shake (global warming deniers!) but more objective people will scratch their heads wondering how a majority party that supposedly dislikes science drafts spending bills that increase funding for the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the National Institute of Standards (NIST) and Technology and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

    Obviously, people in general only accept the science that suits them but it is the same for some  scientists when it comes to anti-scientist framing - if you have read someone rationalize that PETA being against animal research is a 'moral' position while religious people being against research on human embryos is 'anti-science', you have to just laugh it off. Ditto with anti-vaccine cranks, overwhelmingly Democrats, anti-GMO, etc.

    Regardless of where you fall on which party is more anti-science, more funding is a good thing.  I know the economy is bad and since this is a science site, happiness for more funding may not be objective, but we get no money from the government and I am not a researcher so it is strictly a societal benefit case; if police officers and government employees deserve cost-of-living increases, then scientists do too.  That means funding has to increase for academics just like they will for corporate scientists.  Scientists in academia are not overpaid by any means.  Everyone has their pet causes on what should be cut but science is one of the few areas where people in both the public and private sector are interested in the common good.

    The new proposal even includes funding for the James Webb Space Telescope, which is wildly controversial even inside astronomy because completing it with its rampant cost overruns will drain the funding for lots of other worthy projects.  You may disagree on that one but Pres. Obama already killed the Constellation project so he can't continue to look like he hates space science so he will likely sign off on keeping JWST.
     
    Some science bloggers will still find something to hate; Obama asked for $7.8 billion for the NSF, for example, and Congress increased their budget, but only to $7 billion and change, and that can only mean Republicans hate science, but that is more a reason why you should not trust those science bloggers. They are not advocating science, they are using science in their culture war.  There are lots of ways to increase funding for researchers without a blank check - cutting waste and non-science funding by the NSF would be an excellent way to fund more science research.

    Not all science departments go unscathed. Famed Doomsday hysteric John Holdren remains in hot water for defying a 2011 congressional rule that bans the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) collaborating with China but the decreases are a drop in the bucket and it may be just political theater.  In the government, there are lots of ways to get discretionary money even if the formal budget does not allocate it

    It's a tough economic climate and taxpayer-funded scientists, with their partisan political reputation, could have gotten clobbered - but did not. If you insist Republicans hate science anyway, and rationalize increasing funding for people guaranteed not to vote Republican is part of some secret Republican master plan, it just tells us how you vote.

    US science agencies dodge deep cuts by Ivan Semeniuk, Nature