TAG-ALONG SCIENCE: Following The Money
With spurts of government boldness, great moments in science have been born. With spurts of corporate courage equally great breakthroughs in science have occurred. Our global history of scientific, engineering and technical achievement relates the endless struggle by new discoveries and new ideas to receive the financial support they need to reach their goals. Fickle government budgeting and the absence of vision by corporate leaders are the key barriers to progressive and successful scientific progress. Miraculously humankind has progressed this far because of those spurts of boldness and courage. We need more and we need them consistently.
Saving Science: Right now, the key dependence of science and technology (S&T) for funding support is upon the political system and the budgeting process. This is an extreme variable that depends on too much politics and too little attention to S&T input.
Within our government there are a host of Congressional committees and subcommittees involved in various ways in the process of providing funding support for S&T. Additionally the Executive Branch of government has its own advisory staff that makes recommendations on what the priorities should be for funding these research efforts. For example:
“Almost every congressional committee is in some way involved in S&T policy decision-making or uses the scientific and technical knowledge currently available to help them make decisions.” (From: Science and Technology Policymaking: A Primer by Deborah D. Stine – Congressional Research Service. (http://bit.ly/9wvcAA)
Taking S&T out of the lobby: In line with the various committee involvements in the funding for S&T, there is, of course the interactions of lobbyists to seek to direct that funding toward the organizations or corporations they represent. In some cases this helps certain, but limited S&T programs, but it also can deprive other critical areas of needed funding. You may click here to get and example of the lobbying process and how funds are diverted to select organizations (Data related to the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act [ARRA] -2009). These activities are costly and produce well paid lobbyists at the cost of a more equitably and better funded S&T community.
Is there a better and definitely more equitable way? We think there is, and in this two-part presentation we will offer our idea of how that can become a reality. What we are looking at is a way for all S&T programs to have increased access to all funding resources. This would be within a setting that brings to bear a more focused assessment process of S&T programs that use much broader and definitive measures to make funding decisions. The key consideration is public benefit. In stating this we acknowledge the challenge it will be to clearly and universally (politically and ethically) define public benefit. Right now, the majority of S&T goes unnoticed or discredited by the public. One of the key aims ,therefore, of our presentation is to directly address the publics’ “opinions about science and technology.” Additionally, what we will avoid in our presentation is relegating the S&T/Public interaction as a dispute between science and religion.
In closing this first part of our discussion on this topic we emphasize that we absolutely dislike categorizing people who have a weak grasp of S&T as stupid (lacking ordinary quickness and keenness of mind; dull.). We find this demeaning and we find it a common reaction to those persons who openly display their confusion or misunderstanding of parts or all of S&T. Yes, unfortunately, there are some of us who through a variety of physiological causes suffer cognitive dysfunction. These people have our understanding and compassion. The rest of those often called stupid have, instead, extreme shortages of formal education, especially in basic science, as well as having experienced cold rejection by some in the S&T community. In our opinion this latter situation must be changed if we want increased public awareness and support for S&T.
Coming Soon, Part II: S&T, A Common Cause and Benefit.
Header Image: Original photo-art by Waddell Robey (c)2010
Lab researcher: Modified clipart from Microsoft. Modification (Traffic sign) added by Waddell Robey.Education, Enterprise, Humankind and Exploration, Paying The Bills, Scientific Research, The Known, Urge to Know
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