The government shutdown….

I haven’t written yet about this partly because, as a scientist, I’m so frustrated with the quite real effect on research, particularly at the NIH. But science has become truly global and, as a result, if its not done here in the States, it will get done elsewhere–although the results may then not accrue to advantage of the US.

I’m even more concerned about the debt ceiling issue. I’ve written about that issue before in the context of sequestration. I’ll simply reiterate that the brinksmanship is a very bad thing for the global economy.

Ultimately what I’m most worried about is the political dysfunction in governance at the federal level. This has manifested throughout the Obama Presidency in one form or another. Many others have written how the dysfunction we are seeing now is reminiscent of that seen before the American Civil War. That’s not a good precedent.

Where’s the Change We Can Believe In?

ScienceInsider slams the Obama Administration here for not releasing science policy reviews such as the NASA manned space flight review headed by Norman Augustine.

Money quote:

The so-called Augustine report is the latest in a series of analyses of pressing issues affecting the research community—scientific integrity and biosecurity being the others—that the Obama Administration has chosen to keep under wraps. The pattern of asking experts to study an issue and then not disclosing their recommendations seems at odds with the repeated promises of President Barack Obama to maintain a culture of openness in government.

Give them an inch….

From today’s SCIENCE magazine:

A frantic grant-writing effort that has consumed biomedical research scientists this spring came to an end last week, resulting in a huge pile of new applications—more than 10 times larger than expected—to be reviewed by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). After this enthusiastic response, there will be many disappointed applicants: The rejection rate could run as high as 98%.

How important is federal investment in science?

I’ve started many talks with remarks about FDR’s science advisor, Vennevar Bush, who in his report Science, The Endless Frontier, advocated forcefully for substantial federal investment in science R&D as a driver of the economy. In the present context of economic crisis, and in light of the Obama Administration’s very significant move towards funding science in the Recovery Act, now would be an excellent time to return to Bush’s thesis and attempt to generate data showing the relationship between federal investment in science and economic activity (as measured say by GDP). I’m particularly interested in whether it would be possible to tease out a causal relationship between the two–that is, does federal science R&D actually accelerate GDP growth and by what mechanism?

It seems to me that if a case could be made, one that uses recent data and that demonstrates some causality, that would be an extraordinarily powerful argument to bring before the US general public and their elected officials. It would also strongly buttress the new Administration’s policy moves to put science front and center of their agenda.
Who would fund such research? And how important would it really be?