Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Science Funding Has A Built In Inflationary Aspect

When the budget cuts came for sequestration, the science community was up in arms knowing that some of their research would be cut, telling us all that was unacceptable because so many of them were working on very important projects, things that would save lives, prevent global warming, make our transportation more efficient, and prevent ecosystems from collapsing. Yes, all of those things are quite important aren't they?

When the government was shut down for 16 days in October of 2013 many research facilities also shut down temporarily in the middle of their research. They said this set them back, and I thought to myself, why don't they work for free for a couple of weeks until everything gets squared away if they really care that much about it, and are committed at that level to their projects? As an entrepreneur, I would work for free if I had too, and in start-ups you often do. In some cases the scientists however couldn't even enter the facility because the lights wouldn't be on, there was no security, and the place was shut down and locked up.

That doesn't mean they couldn't get online with colleagues around the country and have discussions and dialogues, perhaps even do a little cross-pollination to get their mind refocused on the mission so they could later go back with a clear head to their often tedious research. Today, we spend more on research than we typically have before (during peace time), and each year we are doing more projects and spending more money. But do you know why this is?

Because when you do research you end up finding new stuff and then you have to ask even more questions, and the more you open that door to look inside the more you realize that you need to create new scientific studies to answer those questions. Still, the biggest question of all might be; Who Is Paying For It? If all that research is done solely by way of government funding, we could go broke due to the exponential growth of the questions we seek - see that point?

In other words, we must do the pure research, and try to answer the questions we create every time we learn something new. However, at some point these research projects need to take on corporate sponsors who might use some of that technology in the free-market, perhaps partnering with universities, paying for some of the past research to get there, and moving on into the future. No, this is nothing new, this already happens - but why then did these facilities need to close just because of a silly government shut down.

The problem is we don't have unlimited funds, even if these are very good investments for the future, even if we know that a number of these research projects will pay off exponentially with applications spanning several industries, if not a major breakthroughs cross pollinating through all industries and areas of human endeavor - the Internet, computers, and GPS for instance. Indeed I hope you will please consider all this and think on it.

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