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Can Long Term Research Survive the Coming Age of Austerity?

Unknown Lamer posted more than 2 years ago | from the the-investors-disapprove dept.

Science 306

Hugh Pickens writes "Alexis Madrigal writes that everyone agrees you need science and technology R&D, but when budgets get tight, research into quantum dots or the fundamental forces that cause earthquakes has a hard time holding the line against health care or tax cuts for the richest Americans. Different countries are taking different approaches. Japan is focusing on its most elite researchers, giving up to $50 million to 30 different people. Other countries are just giving up on some areas of research to focus on others; for example, US particle physicists who will spend their careers trying to drive from the backseat as our European counterparts run the Large Hadron Collider. A third approach might be to reduce redundancies in research. 'An idea to provide funding in a larger number of key areas that would avoid duplication is to create dedicated research centers where several investigators can work in parallel on complementary topics,' writes Joerg Heber. "If we do less research we need to do it right. And using this crisis to think about our research infrastructure needn't be a bad thing. It should be seen as an opportunity to reform the academic research system in a more comprehensive and fundamental way than the academic community and the politicians normally dare to think about.'"

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306 comments

Research money has to be divided more fairly. (1, Troll)

Dr.Bob,DC (2076168) | more than 2 years ago | (#36815402)


We NEED long term research and the "big projects" like the LHC, those provide insight into the fundamental questions of the universe. What we don't need is piles of public money going towards general medical research. All that cash goes to Big Pharma in the form of grants and tax breaks.

The state of medical research today is, basically, full of confirmation bias. Take $10,000,000 + "we think X causes cancer" and you will get, surprise surprise, "proof" that X causes cancer.

Why not give a small amount, even 10% of that research money go towards helping alternative medicine practitioners prove that their work is actually effective? We know it it from the millions of satisfied patients, now we just need some money and lab space to prove it. Alt-Med has been growing like gangbusters, its popularity at an all time high: it must work.

It will take some time and breaking down of the Medical Establishment's stone walls, but I firmly believe that one day soon a Nobel Prize in Medicine wll be awarded to an alt-med practitioner. Mark my words.

Take care,
Bob.

Re:Research money has to be divided more fairly. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36815500)

Oh it's so true, that damned medical establishment.

When I got spinal problems from working so much on my back and knees, the doctors insisted I needed surgery.

But then I went to my alt-med friend, Stoner Bob, and he referred me to a chiropractor.

The very first session, when the chiropractor learned how hard I worked making money, he laid out a treatment plan that was right for me. Now I go five times a week! My bad is a little better, and my wallet is lighter than ever!

Re:Research money has to be divided more fairly. (1, Interesting)

YodasEvilTwin (2014446) | more than 2 years ago | (#36815592)

Bad example. There are a whole lot of back and joint problems that don't require surgery to be fixed but can be fixed / helped by physical therapies, massage, stretches, exercise, etc. I'm sure there are some chiropractors who are quacks but for the most part it seems like evidence-based medicine to me.

Re:Research money has to be divided more fairly. (3, Insightful)

YodasEvilTwin (2014446) | more than 2 years ago | (#36815546)

Alt-Med has been growing like gangbusters, its popularity at an all time high: it must work.

You mean people are idiots. Most alt-med is garbage that has either been demonstrated to be ineffective or equivalent to a placebo (e.g. acupuncture), actually harmful (e.g. taking HIV-positive people off ARVs to "cure" AIDS), or not even worth investigating (e.g. homeopathy). The rest of it isn't alt-med, it falls under the purview of regular straight-up medicine (e.g. nutrition). Medicine should be evidence-based. Alt-med isn't medicine because it isn't based on evidence. That said, the pharmaceutical comapnies need to be regulated better and the FDA, NIH, etc. need to end their immense conflicts of interest.

Re:Research money has to be divided more fairly. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36815852)

I'm replying to this so your reply sticks out.

Re:Research money has to be divided more fairly. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36815906)

I'm replying to this so your PINGAS sticks out.

Re:Research money has to be divided more fairly. (0)

wisnoskij (1206448) | more than 2 years ago | (#36816216)

Currently nutrition is alt. medicine. Doctors don't understand it and as long as big pharma controls the industry they never will and no one else will be allowed to use it to help people.

Of course there are snake oil sales men out there, but that does not mean that some people that are outside of the accepted practises of doctors are not treating and curing people.

And even snake oil is better then half of the current system, there are drugs out there that are being subscribed daily that have less then or equal the effect of a placebo and lots of side effects.

Re:Research money has to be divided more fairly. (2, Informative)

bmo (77928) | more than 2 years ago | (#36815608)

>Alt-Med has been growing like gangbusters, its popularity at an all time high: it must work.

Post hoc ergo propter hoc.

It's only popular because people like you have been able to dress your snake oil up in white coats and "professional" language. It's marketing.

>Mark my words.

I've marked your words, and underneath I've written "raving loony."

You should be sued into the ground. Indeed, if a single person has died because you discouraged him or her from seeking actual effective treatment in time, you should be charged with manslaughter, at a minimum.

--
BMO

Re:Research money has to be divided more fairly. (2)

wjousts (1529427) | more than 2 years ago | (#36815650)

I'll make no further comment on your alt-medicine nonsense, others have already ripped you a new one. I'll simply refer you to this site [whatstheharm.net].

Re:Research money has to be divided more fairly. (2)

fermat1313 (927331) | more than 2 years ago | (#36815688)

Why not give a small amount, even 10% of that research money go towards helping alternative medicine practitioners prove that their work is actually effective? We know it it from the millions of satisfied patients, now we just need some money and lab space to prove it.

There is plenty of money in the Alternative Medicine industry. Have you been seen what they charge for useless homeopathic medicines? Tell you what, why don't you put some of your money into just a few peer-reviewed scientifically sound research projects that don't rely on anecdotal evidence to prove their conclusions. Once you get something that proves your basic approach to medicine is sound, then we'll start throwing money at you. Until that, why should you get any more money than astrologists, psychics, or perpetual motion "inventors"?

Re:Research money has to be divided more fairly. (2)

gnick (1211984) | more than 2 years ago | (#36815698)

Take $10,000,000 + "we think X causes cancer" and you will get, surprise surprise, "proof" that X causes cancer.

And "alt-med" is different? If you take $10,000,000 + "we think X cures cancer" and you will get, surprise surprise, "proof" that X cures cancer. Then all of the sudden we're all strapping magnets to our heads and yelling into our cell phones at a minimum 18" distance to avoid tumors because of the latest "study". The reason "Big Pharma" is so successful (aside from very favorable patent law) is that their research shows tangible, measurable results. "Alt-med," even after thousands of years of research and practice, simply makes the true-believers feel good while doing little to actually treat the ailments or showing any benefit for skeptics who undergo the same treatment.

On the other hand, things like "I wonder how X works" gets funded because it fills in gaps that we simply don't even begin to understand and similar "fill in the gap" research is largely responsible for the tech that we have now but lacked only a couple of hundred years ago.

Re:Research money has to be divided more fairly. (1)

interkin3tic (1469267) | more than 2 years ago | (#36815818)

"Dr. Bob," a strong argument as to why subscriptions should only get early access to articles if they have positive karma...

Re:Research money has to be divided more fairly. (1)

PickyH3D (680158) | more than 2 years ago | (#36815902)

Alt-Med has been growing like gangbusters, its popularity at an all time high: it must work.

I am not posting this to necessarily disagree with the sentiment, but growing popularity definitely does not correlate to effectiveness. After all, there are a lot of stupid people out there that will fall for anything, such as the less-reputable side of any business.

A few years back, my brother was hit by a reckless driver, and my brother's car was thrown into a tree. Long-story-short, he had nasty back problems for a long time. However, he went and saw a chiropractor, which absolutely helped him (combined with healthy eating and rigorous exercise regiments). I doubt he's 100%, but he's probably in the 90+%.

Still, just as there is one positive example, I am sure that there are numerous counter examples. Of course, that's not to say that there aren't an equal number of problems with traditional medicine (especially among general practitioners that get forced to do everything, as I found out last year).

Re:Research money has to be divided more fairly. (1)

Gerzel (240421) | more than 2 years ago | (#36815926)

Because that money has ALREADY been spent on so called "Alt-Med" and the results disproved it.

In-fact your wording is that the money will go to "prove" it meaning that the money wouldn't go to science at all. Scientific research isn't spent to prove anything. It is spent to test hypothesis.

Spending money to prove quackery (aka alt-med) is spending money for advertising and propaganda not science.

Re:Research money has to be divided more fairly. (1)

ChromeAeonium (1026952) | more than 2 years ago | (#36816086)

This is true. In fact, there's actually a National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine [scienceblogs.com] is doing it. Total number of beneficial effective medical techniques they have developed via the use of chiropractic, homeopathy, chi, acupuncture, or any other so-called alternative medicine: 0. Their yearly budget: something in the range of $120 million. Your (if you're an American) tax dollars at work.

Not the medical establishment that's the problem (0)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 2 years ago | (#36815956)

The guys that control the purse strings are politicians. And politicians are owned by big pharma. Just go look at how much money [opensecrets.org] the big drug companies hand out in political donations every campaign cycle. It's up to over $30 million now. And that's just DIRECT giving to FEDERAL candidates. That doesn't include all their proxy non-profits (with their "public interest" ad money) and state giving.

So yeah, good luck with that.

Re:Research money has to be divided more fairly. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36816148)

All that cash goes to Big Pharma in the form of grants and tax breaks.

Pics or it didn't happen.

Well (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36815478)

The U.S.'s R&D lies privatized mostly in universities funded by the university or a company.

Federal Dollars in US. (1)

alexander_686 (957440) | more than 2 years ago | (#36815802)

While most basic R&D is done within Universities, it is mostly funded by grants – mostly Federal in nature (NIH, NSF, etc.) Sometimes a interested party will throw money at basic research [non-profits researching a specific illness, Industry groups, etc.]. So if Federal research dollars dry up I suspect we will see a lot of unemployed post-docs and graduate students.

Biting the hand that feeds them (1)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 2 years ago | (#36815854)

The problem is a Rift between companies who can fund their research and the Scientific community.

A lot of companies would like to put money into R&D however the Scientific community tends to shun Private Enterprise as the evil daemon. Especially when they ask what could this research be used for they go into so prerecorded rant about how Science isn't about making money it is just about learning more about the universe...

For a lot of this stuff they can say. "Smaller Faster Computer Chips", "Possible new energy source", "Next Generation of Weapon" and they will get their funding. They may have to do some less theoretical research as part of the job, but that is no difference then a professor having to teach some undergrad snots an intro courses just so you can continue your real research.

But over the years There has been a growing Rift between Academics/Scientist and Private Enterprise, and it is mostly just due to some crazy political mumbojumbo on both sides more then any real problems.
My guess this Rift started back in the 1960's where colleges became refugee locations for kids who didn't want to go to war, and many of them with their strict political beliefs stayed there, and created the rift from universities and the outside world.

yea uhhhh (1)

screamphilling (1173499) | more than 2 years ago | (#36815486)

all of that big research drove the economy to the giant bubble of an intangible /meta/digital-numeric entity that it is today. it is all one in the same. seamless. cyclic. natural.

Re:yea uhhhh (1)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 2 years ago | (#36815898)

Research doesn't drive bubbles, it drives new markets. Bubbles are over investments on current markets, in an attempt to get rich quick.

Once we get rid of the Get Rich Quick and live modestly like it was back in the 50's then things can get better. But we can't do it like the Rules of the 1950's are still valid today.
We need new Liberal Rules, however for these Liberal Rules to succeed we need conservative minded people to make sure they are not exploited.

how about just make the rich pay their fair share (-1, Flamebait)

Dan667 (564390) | more than 2 years ago | (#36815496)

the rich benefit disproportionately from government services, they should pay their fair share for them.

Re:how about just make the rich pay their fair sha (1, Insightful)

Medevilae (1456015) | more than 2 years ago | (#36815514)

While simplistic, you're right. I'll be simplistic too- I hate Republicans.

Re:how about just make the rich pay their fair sha (1)

rubycodez (864176) | more than 2 years ago | (#36815572)

they benefit disproportionately from war and disease, too. we should cut back on the wars and get them out of the profit cycle of insurance, big healthcare chains and big pharmy.

Re:how about just make the rich pay their fair sha (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36815600)

How about the welfare losers paying theirs? You do know close to half Americans DO NOT WORK, nor PAY TAXES? You fools, go to Russia and have your utopian commie dreams and hate the rich there!

Re:how about just make the rich pay their fair sha (1)

wjousts (1529427) | more than 2 years ago | (#36815686)

Yeah, those loser children, disabled and elderly. Shake those spongers down for more cash. Nevermind that they don't have any cash to start with.

Re:how about just make the rich pay their fair sha (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36815900)

I'm a hard-working hedge fund manager. Want to buy this nice, big toxic asset? We have a $6 million stake in it too! (Note that I don't tell you we also have a $2 billion bet against it...)

Re:how about just make the rich pay their fair sha (2, Insightful)

davek (18465) | more than 2 years ago | (#36815648)

the rich benefit disproportionately from government services, they should pay their fair share for them.

So to you, "fair" is that out of 10 people, 1 person pays almost the entire bill, 4 people pay a little bit, and the remaining 5 pay nothing at all? On top of that, those non-paying 5 people are the ones consuming most of the benefits! This all seems "fair" to you?

Re:how about just make the rich pay their fair sha (2)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 2 years ago | (#36815692)

The non-paying 5 are not consuming most benefits. They have no factories to be protected by the police, they own no deposits to be insured by the government, they own no home to be protected from fire. They do not use the roads to make money, nor do they benefit from the legal system to uphold their patents or copyrights.

Re:how about just make the rich pay their fair sha (1)

PickyH3D (680158) | more than 2 years ago | (#36816038)

What?

They have no factories to be protected by the police

The police exist to protect people as well. I guess without factories, then there would be no rape, assault, theft or murder.

they own no deposits to be insured by the government

Then they do not have a single bank account (see FDIC), which is highly unlikely.

they own no home to be protected from fire.

Many people that do not pay taxes live in free, or highly subsidized government housing (e.g., paid for by taxes). This building/house will also be insured. Government housing is also not always the slums that it is trumped up to be, particularly when referring to subsidized housing.

They do not use the roads to make money

I guess they're not looking for work. Not going to work. Not going to the grocery store. Not having food/groceries delivered. Not going to school.

nor do they benefit from the legal system to uphold their patents or copyrights

That's all the legal system is for? I suppose they can't sue corporations. No one has ever sued, say McDonald's, for spilling coffee on themselves.

Every single point that you made is downright stupid. Go enjoy justifying stealing from people. I suppose it will be easy, as the police aren't there to stop it from happening in your world.

Re:how about just make the rich pay their fair sha (1)

interkin3tic (1469267) | more than 2 years ago | (#36815932)

1. Life isn't "fair," (though it's closer to fair for the rich)
2. That's a simplistic way of putting it
3. That's the way it has to work

Yes the rich should pay more back to society, having gotten more. I see no evidence that the American dream is reality: hard work and self-sustenance are illusions that conservatives pretend are real. The rich owe more back to the public than the poor, since they earned their wealth either by being born into wealth, getting a lot of help from the public, or most often, both.

Re:how about just make the rich pay their fair sha (1)

RubberChainsaw (669667) | more than 2 years ago | (#36816012)

Yes, that is fair to me, considering that the gentleman who is paying the most is the one most able to pay, the four who are paying a little are paying what they are able, and the ones not paying at all are quite unable to do so. Paying what you can for the benefit of others is the cost of society.

Re:how about just make the rich pay their fair sha (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36815680)

Actually I'd argue the middle class and poor have benefited far more from government services, which is frankly a disservice to the middle class and poor. The rich pay most of the taxes anyway, so why does this confuse anyone why they wouldn't try paying less or demanding more say over how taxes are spent.

We could fund amazing research to benefit all if we would shitcan social security, medicare, ObamaCare, and the War Department. The rest is peanuts.

Re:how about just make the rich pay their fair sha (1)

CohibaVancouver (864662) | more than 2 years ago | (#36815782)

The rich pay most of the taxes anyway

This is a myth. In most western nations, the _middle classes_ fund the majority of government services. The poor don't pay much if any tax, and the rich can generally shelter themselves from much of the taxation. It's Ma and Pa Kettle who shoulder the burden.

This is one of the contributing reasons third world countries have trouble funding their programs - No middle classes. They just have very rich and very poor. It's also one of the real dangers posed by the erosion of the middle class in the USA. As the US moved to a rich/poor model, with fewer and fewer in the middle, the treasury will start to suffer.

Re:how about just make the rich pay their fair sha (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36816104)

The idea that govt can only spend what it takes in has been disproved by this country since day one of its founding. Reagan proved it, deficits don't matter.

Re:how about just make the rich pay their fair sha (1)

Mr. Arbusto (300950) | more than 2 years ago | (#36815734)

And the lower 25% pay hardly any overall taxes and the lower 50% pay 0 or negative federal income taxes.

The lower 15% are paid not to work, and the middle make enough in wages or handouts to survive having to pay for the generational debt passed to them.

The system is broken on both ends and is pressing on the middle. It needs to be fixed. I don't think you realize how much money is being taken in a year.

http://iowahawk.typepad.com/iowahawk/2011/03/feed-your-family-on-10-billion-a-day.html [typepad.com] kind of puts it into perspective.

Re:how about just make the rich pay their fair sha (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36815736)

Ah yes lets make the top 5% of people who pay something like 60% of the taxes - http://ntu.org/tax-basics/who-pays-income-taxes.html - pay even more even as the bottom 50% pay less then 3%. And who needs all those services again?
And the last numbers I saw suggested that even if we increase the top tax bracket rate up to 70% it would only bring in something like 300billion, which is a drop in the bucket. Wouldn't it make more sense to look at where the highest costs are? oh wait that is social security, medicare and military.

Idiot.

Re:how about just make the rich pay their fair sha (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 2 years ago | (#36815784)

They have 80% of the wealth.

The wealthy are the ones that use the services. The poor own no oil companies that need protecting.

Re:how about just make the rich pay their fair sha (1)

halivar (535827) | more than 2 years ago | (#36815994)

You know... most businesses hire private security. Just sayin'.

Re:how about just make the rich pay their fair sha (1)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 2 years ago | (#36815982)

Perhaps the rich should just get less services....

The problem is these services are so complex only the Rich have resources to use them.

I remember in my state there was a new service for Small Businesses to give some discounts for training. At the time I worked for a small company (5 employees) we spent a day filling out the paper work only to get it rejected because the training had to be in state. So we then had to fine training available in State then it was rejected because our reasons for such training wasn't fully valid... We never got to do the training. But our competitors who were bigger then us did because they can afford to have people do all the paperwork and spend hours on the phone knowing all the details.

Remember this when you think those Republicans are just out to protect the rich when they get rid of all these services, when those Democrats make those services so complex that only the rich can access them.

Re:how about just make the rich pay their fair sha (1)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 2 years ago | (#36816028)

Most of the Rich Work quite hard and make a lot of sacrifices during their life to get rich. You make it sound like it is an easy thing to obtain. Being born in a rich family helps a little bit but it isn't a guarantee. There are a lot of stories of the Self made man, who just got sick of being poor and then rose to become rich.

They didn't want to live like they are poor and wanted more services in life so they worked to become rich.

I have worked with Rich People and they work very hard. I have worked with poor people who say they are working very hard, and they are not, they may be tiring themselfs out but they are not working hard.

Re:how about just make the rich pay their fair sha (1)

gearsmithy (1869466) | more than 2 years ago | (#36816198)

I have to agree. For some reason success is demonized in our society. If you're not poor like the rest of us then you must be one of the evil "rich" who spends their entire day trying to figure out how to steal money from poor people... Unless you're on TV, then you're okay. Celebrity wealth doesn't count.

I have a better question (3, Interesting)

BitHive (578094) | more than 2 years ago | (#36815508)

Can Progress Survive Austerity as a Foregone Conclusion?

Re:I have a better question (2)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 2 years ago | (#36815532)

It is rather darkly fascinating how a series of movements of largely imaginary money has managed to so sharply affect the availability of actual products and services to actual people...

Re:I have a better question (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 2 years ago | (#36815904)

It isn't that strange that people would stop working for empty promises.

If lots of people really did stop working for empty promises, it wouldn't be that strange if there was less productivity available. I guess the trick is to find some real promises to get them to work for.

Re:I have a better question (1)

flaming error (1041742) | more than 2 years ago | (#36815960)

Well said.

But take a step back and find the wealth. You'll probably find that the vast bulk of it is in the hands of relatively few people (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Distribution_of_wealth#In_the_United_States) who seem to be intent on sharing less rather than more.

When imaginary money moves, sometimes real assets do as well. Who owns most of the real estate in America? Who has a lien for nearly everything they don't hold clear title to? Who is primarily responsible for conjuring and parcelling out money?

The economy shouldn't be too confusing. It's a grand and open Ponzi scheme we're all legally obliged to participate in.

Re:I have a better question (4, Insightful)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 2 years ago | (#36816212)

While the assorted clever mechanisms for ensuring that trickle-up economics continues to work are fascinating(and important to keep an eye on), it's more complex than a mere ponzi scheme:

Ponzi schemes are zero to negative sum games with a fairly clear redistribution of a fixed amount of wealth among a population, with a heavy redistribution toward the top of the pyramid. The real economy, though, is stranger. If you look at the matter in terms of 'real' wealth(ie. the goods and services that people actually want for their own sake, rather than the assorted intermediary constructs), the world has basically never been better off, with the exception of unpleasant looking mid to longterm numbers on petrochemicals. And yet, the correct perturbations in the framework of legal fictions that we lay on top of that can actually make people, on average, worse off.

That's the part of economics where my intuition just sort of curls up and dies. Your classic "The crops failed, so the supply of wheat is at 50%, ergo famine" is easy. The "a fixed quantity of wealth is distributed among hypothetical investors, one of them starts a ponzi scheme, now the distribution is different." is also pretty easy. But when "We have so many available houses that getting a place to live is now cheaper than before!" becomes an international crisis, you know that your head is rammed so far up the ass of the twilight zone that comprehension is going to be difficult...

research money (2)

alphacow (1516741) | more than 2 years ago | (#36815510)

As a researcher, I think giving to the most elite is a moderately good idea. Reading most of the research that's generated by people like me, you realize it's just PhDs trying their darnedest to ++publicationCount, which is a pretty stupid thing for taxpayer dollars to fund. The major work, more often than not, comes out of well-renown labs, and the students who come out of those labs.

On the other hand, lots of the fundamental knowledge necessary for the "major work" mentioned earlier comes from the incremental work that isn't sexy in its own right, but very necessary nonetheless. No simple answer here.

Re:research money (2)

wjousts (1529427) | more than 2 years ago | (#36815754)

As a research, I strongly disagree. Reputations are slow to build and linger far longer than they are deserved. Einstein wasn't an "elite" research when he did most of his best work and once he was "elite" he never had another breakthrough as earth-shattering as those he made as a lowly Swiss patent clerk.

Re:research money (2)

HuguesT (84078) | more than 2 years ago | (#36816228)

Not quite. Hopefully we can agree that Einstein's best work is his general theory of relativity. He was a patent clerk from 1903 until 1909. He did publish four major papers in 1905 including his work on special relativity and the photoelectric effect, but he did his most advanced work on GRT from about 1909 until 1917, with bits published in between. He then did his best work when he was in academia. He continued to do still widely cited work until at least 1935, when he published his EPR paper. I think during and after the war he was a bit isolated at Princeton.

It is not quite true that established researchers stop being productive or even as productive as before they were known. Look at Feynman or Gell-Mann for instance, they did plenty of amazing work after their Nobel prize. Look at Marie Curie, she did enough good work after her first Nobel to get a second.

Re:research money (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36816240)

Although I agree with the general notion, IMHO you have it wrong on Einstein. He became a full professor at Karl-Ferdinand University in Prague in 1911. In 1914, he returned to Germany after being appointed director of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Physics (1914–1932) [From Wikipedia] His biggest achievement is the general theory of relativity, using mathematics and intuition that was years ahead of his time. It was published in 1916. Long after his patent office times.

Re:research money (2)

interkin3tic (1469267) | more than 2 years ago | (#36816034)

Reading most of the research that's generated by people like me, you realize it's just PhDs trying their darnedest to ++publicationCount, which is a pretty stupid thing for taxpayer dollars to fund... On the other hand, lots of the fundamental knowledge necessary for the "major work" mentioned earlier comes from the incremental work that isn't sexy in its own right, but very necessary nonetheless. No simple answer here.

It's punctuated equilibrium. Most published research is average of course, and does not advance us very far. Those few "major works" that advance us in leaps rely on those lesser published results. You cannot have the major advances without the minor advances.

Is there a better way to do things? I'm skeptical. Publication count is going to remain important for as long as research grants and research positions are limited, which is going to be always. Every system is going to have flaws.

As a researcher, I think giving to the most elite is a moderately good idea.

Really? Because it seems to me that most of the established elite become very conservative with their research once they've "made it" doing research that basically builds off their previous research and is rarely fundamentally groundbreaking. Their lab workers do have the motivation to take real risks, as they need to establish themselves, but I'm of the opinion that giving more research funds to new programs and new heads of labs might advance us more. A good balance would probably be best.

"driving from the back seat" (3, Insightful)

Gyorg_Lavode (520114) | more than 2 years ago | (#36815536)

Dear US scientists, learn to share. We don't need another Large Hadron Collider.

The US really should accept that it doesn't need one of everything and there is no shame using the resources of other countries rather than duplicating them.

Re:"driving from the back seat" (1)

Cutriss (262920) | more than 2 years ago | (#36815576)

Dear US scientists, learn to share. We don't need another Large Hadron Collider.

The US really should accept that it doesn't need one of everything and there is no shame using the resources of other countries rather than duplicating them.

I'm sure "US scientists" would have absolutely no problem sharing. Your scorn is better directed at the military and bureaucrats.

Re:"driving from the back seat" (1)

rubycodez (864176) | more than 2 years ago | (#36815612)

we (the world) need the next thing after the LHC, the U.S. physics community has designs for those. Doesn't have to be built here of course, but a world class particle accelerator is pretty cheap compared to the cost of a typical U.S. major war effort.

Re:"driving from the back seat" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36815724)

Far from it being a bad thing, the researcher I met who's in charge of one of the projects looking at the edges of the universe seemed to enjoy having his bosses be in France and Italy. He goes over once every month or two, and it's not like the moving veal-pen lifestyle that traveling IT people have to deal with.

Re:"driving from the back seat" (1)

Rich0 (548339) | more than 2 years ago | (#36815830)

I'd extend this to a number of areas.

The problem with most research is the tragedy of the commons. Once you discover something, everybody benefits (unless it is something like a military secret that you keep close control of for a few decades). What nation discovered the last antibiotic you took? Do you even care? Patents can give a company incentive to discover as long as most nations respect them, and they can also inhibit progress when they get out of control. Patents usually don't help with blue-sky research since it is too far from market. They also don't work if many nations choose to ignore them (again, the tragedy of the commons).

I think that we need to look at research on more of a global scale. Instead of every nation funding its own R&D and hoarding their own data while trying to exploit data discovered elsewhere without contributing, we should manage research as a common resource. Essentially treat it like Airbus or whatever - everybody puts something in, and everybody gets something out.

This won't work for areas with military applications since there are competing interests. However, it seems like this is not an area that is ever hurting for cash.

Re:"driving from the back seat" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36816102)

s/tragedy of the commons/free rider problem/g

Re:"driving from the back seat" (1)

cleepa (1142305) | more than 2 years ago | (#36815884)

Agreed. Not only that, but the USA is a contributing member to the LHC. AND, the fact that the LHC is in France and Switzerland does not mean that US Physicists cannot take significant positions at CERN. It's a pretty stupid remark.

Problem is (2)

JamesP (688957) | more than 2 years ago | (#36815538)

For some stuff, the science is "easy", but it's the needed engineering that costs an arm and a leg (Space Shuttle, LHC, etc, etc)

Which means you can't go "brute force" anymore on problems.

Think, rethink experiments, use creativity. It will be better.

I am sure there are new things to be discovered "on the cheap"

Not that I'm agains LHC, on the contrary. But what if someone finds a way to have 10Tev collisions using a different and easier method.

Re:Problem is (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 2 years ago | (#36815706)

But what if someone finds a way to have 10Tev collisions using a different and easier method

We can do them for free in the upper atmosphere in much larger quantities than the LHC. The difficulty is monitoring the results with a finer granularity than 'ooo, the aurora borealis looks pretty'.

Eliminate the manned space program? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36815558)

I would like for the general public to accept how little science the manned space program generates compared to how much it costs.

Bring it on (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36815560)

There will be more unemployed hippie leftist scientists, that is for sure! They needed a dose of reality anyway. Bring on the new age of low taxes and high economic growth!

What everyone misses (3, Interesting)

JoshuaZ (1134087) | more than 2 years ago | (#36815568)

Diminishing marginal returns are very relevant for where government funding should go. Thus in general, small scientific programs are much more likely to have a very high output proportional to their cost than large programs. Since all science funding is tiny, cutting into it makes very little sense in that context. Of course, this is aside from the other serious issues with the recent pushes for austerity such as how in the US this apparently means cuts to absolutely everything except for military spending.

Boo hoo (3, Insightful)

argStyopa (232550) | more than 2 years ago | (#36815574)

Really, people.

Perceived need is infinite. Resources are finite. Further, as we push back the boundaries of knowledge, the experiments get more and more expensive.

We can argue all day about priorities, but let's actually talk about those priorities - simple, pointless whinging (such as 'US particle physicists have to drive from the back seat' because the Euros have the LHC....) is little more than tantrum-throwing.

In a democracy, there is ALWAYS going to be a pressure from the mass to address their needs with Bread and Circuses. It's not the best long-term solution for anything (well, unless your goal is to breed a larger underclass), but the fact is that you have to sell your idea, or implement a tyranny in which your priorities 'win'.

Duplications leads to innovation (4, Interesting)

gubers33 (1302099) | more than 2 years ago | (#36815596)

Multiple people working on the same thing leads to different ideas and more innovation, having only one group of people working on something adds only one perspective.

Re:Duplications leads to innovation (1)

wjousts (1529427) | more than 2 years ago | (#36815796)

Exactly, don't reinvent the wheel is all well and good, unless you end up inventing a far superior wheel.

Less Duplication? (3, Insightful)

drooling-dog (189103) | more than 2 years ago | (#36815610)

Less duplication? In scientific research? So instead of the replication and confirmation/expansion of results, which used to be at the foundation of the scientific method, every "experiment" or study will now be done once and its outcome accepted unquestioningly as the final word?

Clearly, all we have to do is eliminate all funding for genetics (evolution), geology, and climate research, and they'll be plenty of money left over to test all of our new weapons at least twice before putting them into the field.

Comeon, /. (3, Insightful)

rayvd (155635) | more than 2 years ago | (#36815614)

has a hard time holding the line against health care or tax cuts for the richest Americans.

Flamebait like this in the article summary just will veer the discussion completely off-topic.

It's also why I now have AdBlock Plus turned on when I (less frequently) browse this site.

Tone down the obvious political bias! Thanks!

Re:Comeon, /. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36815672)

Too bad it's true? I guess reality is biased.

Re:Comeon, /. (2)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 2 years ago | (#36815740)

What bias is that?
They are really debating things like health care and tax cuts for the richest Americans while trying to figure out how to deal with the budget. How would you say that without the bias?

Re:Comeon, /. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36815820)

There may be no neutral way to say it. You could say, "tax cuts for the Americans who actually pay income taxes", but that sounds too contentious the other way.

Re:Comeon, /. (1)

Baloroth (2370816) | more than 2 years ago | (#36815840)

Maybe its flamebait, but at least its balanced flamebait. After all, you know its gonna come up in the comments, might as well take a stab at both sides. Might have actually stopped the flame war, since none of the other comments that I scanned even mention it. That is, except for yours. Hmmmm......

Re:Comeon, /. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36815868)

I had the same reaction, but all the 'smarter' /.'ers will just flame you and mod you down. Glad I wasn't the only one who saw the straight bias. Also, to the others pretending that there is no bias, really? I understand you're used to just being 'right' and how dare we questions you and your godlike powers of intelligence ( wait, you 'proved' He doesn't exist either right?), but at least own up to your OPINIONS and stop trying to state them as fact. Look at actual numbers before 'educating' us.

Re:Comeon, /. (1)

interkin3tic (1469267) | more than 2 years ago | (#36816076)

That part you quoted was balanced. And I mean -actually- balanced, not Fox news balanced. Conservatives favor tax cuts for the rich, liberals favor health care spending. No bias.

Research overlap (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36815618)

The problem with cutting overlapping research is that the act of doing so, strengthens and re-enforces the research done. Mistakes happen, having researchers work along the same general lines helps them check their work and avoid messy mistakes if they reach wrong conclusion.

I'd rather the research in medicine was done in ways to bolster the strength of the conclusions for medicines and techniques that might be used on me and my loved ones.

Backwards priorities (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36815624)

It's a shame that money has become so important that its possession and expressions of its possession will be the last to be cut, while productive uses of it are the first to be cut. It's a sick, twisted society that will hang a hammer in a museum and piss on people that want to build a house with it.

If not money, then what? (1)

alexander_686 (957440) | more than 2 years ago | (#36816014)

If not money, then how would you allocate resources to “productive” uses? Have you read any recent communist economic publications? They basic admit that Hayek was right when it came to price signals. If the hard left is giving up on a command and control economy you know that money is important.

plenty of money for research. (2, Insightful)

jonpublic (676412) | more than 2 years ago | (#36815630)

Just imagine how much cash we'd have for research if we would have forced the banks to do the same thing that GM was forced to do.

Declare bankruptcy, wipe out shareholders, and trim bond holders. Those are the people that invested in risky behavior and they should have paid the price.

The swedes did it and they recovered from their banking crisis.

http://www.ritholtz.com/blog/2011/06/go-swedish-part-47/ [ritholtz.com]

Re:plenty of money for research. (1, Insightful)

spencerogden (49254) | more than 2 years ago | (#36816108)

In what universe were the equity holders of GM wiped out? The stock never dropped below 28 and now the UAW owns the largest piece valued at $4.8 billion. That the bond holders got a haircut rather than the equity holders was a travesty of contract law and an under the table handout to the union.

Not that the bailout of the banks was any better, but to suggest that the handling of GM is the correct method is crazy.

We need more! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36815728)

I for one, think that we'll never have enough money spent on pot smoking mensturating monkeys. Or shrimp on treadmills. Or examining toenail clippings for nicotine.

$72 Billion in improper payments in 2008
$25 Billion to maintain vacant federal property
$60 Billion in healthcare fraud anually.
$13 Billion Wasted or Stolen in Iraq, with another $7.5 Billion unaccounted for.
$2.4 Billion in Jets for the Pentagon that they did not want.
$2 Billion in Hurricane Katrina fraud.
$2 Billion per year in payments to farmers NOT to farm their land.
$3 Billion to resand beaches (which washes back into the sea).
$146 Million more spent on first class over coach flights for Federal Employees
$140 Million for Senator Kennedy's Institute
$2.6 Million to train chineese prostitutes to drink more responsibly on the job
$3.9 Million to rearrange desks at the Securities and Exchange commission
$1.2 Million to ship 2 packages overnight from the Pentagon (aircraft parts costing less than $1 each).

Seems there is plenty of money-- just isn't being spent very efficiently.

Sure you can still work (2)

SplashMyBandit (1543257) | more than 2 years ago | (#36815744)

The rest of the World has been doing good research without the colossal budgets their American colleagues enjoy (I know, I was part of a project that operated on a shoestring - but we still found the free brown dwarfs in the galaxy). Maybe there will be fewer spectacular programmes, but of course great research will still get done. Of course, you can always join international collaborations as partners to pool resources, rather than be the rich kid having all the toys to themselves.

Sorry if this sounds harsh, but Americans have had it so good for so long they didn't even realise how fortunate they are. Even with less excess wealth about they are still by far the richest people per capita - although certainly indvidivual Americans have it very tough at the moment - so it sounds a bit whiney when we hear that some program is being reduced because the US is going from (comparatively) very wealthy to just wealthy. Be grateful for what you already have, and appreciate all the things you also have that don't require lots of money (your health, friends, family, girlfriend, more opportunities than most Africans can dream of, more cheeseburgers than even Garfield can dream of, Mom's basement, and that fact you even have a computer to read Slashdot on!)

wah (1)

buddyglass (925859) | more than 2 years ago | (#36815786)

If you're a U.S. particle physicist and you want not to drive from the back seat....then become a European particle physicist. Nothing says you have to do your research in the U.S. Suck it up.

Rounding Error (4, Insightful)

Swanktastic (109747) | more than 2 years ago | (#36815788)

Most of this type of funding is a rounding error in the budget. The NSF gets $7B I believe. It's really not worth talking about cutting except for ideological reasons...

minus 4, T$[roll) (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36815874)

archiitecTure. My

Yes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36815944)

Science can and will survive. And in the long run *some* harsh times are actually good for science. It will force necessary changes that would otherwise never happen because of vested interests, etc.

Tax cuts for the rich? (3, Insightful)

steveha (103154) | more than 2 years ago | (#36815954)

It turns out that "the rich" pay the majority of the taxes. Thus any meaningful tax cut, for any purpose, will cut taxes for "the rich" more than it will cut taxes for "the poor".

There have been several times in the history of the USA where the overall tax rate was lowered, and tax revenues went up. This is because "the rich" moved money out of tax shelters and started investing it, which grew GNP. In other words, tax revenue went up because government was collecting a lower rate on a much larger amount of money. And "the rich" paid more taxes than they paid before.

There are some people who view the above as a problem; this problem is called "the rich get richer". Even if the poor get richer also, which confuses me. How will you increase jobs without someone who is rich getting richer? And how does that rich person hurt the poor by getting richer?

Historically, the US government has not managed to collect more than 19 or 20 percent of GNP in tax revenue. Even when the highest tax bracket was 70% or even higher, revenues as a percent of GNP were not higher than when the highest tax bracket was under 40%. If you think you can fix the USA's financial problems by taxing the rich, you need to explain one of these: (a) why this time it will be different, and the government will collect over 20% of GNP; (b) why GNP will grow faster with higher tax rates; or (c) why the high tax rates will limit the growth of GNP and collect less tax revenue, but it's worth it because it is important to keep the rich from getting richer.

My own view is that if 19% is what the US government can realistically collect, we should be trying to grow the GNP of the US so that the government is collecting 19% of a larger GNP. That means reducing taxes, regulatory burden, and uncertainty.

But don't take my word for this; see some references:

Thomas Sowell: Dissecting The Demagoguery About 'Tax Cuts For The Rich' [investors.com]

Nick Gillespie and Veronique de Rugy: The 19 Percent Solution [reason.com]

Disclaimer: I'm either middle class or posibly upper-middle-class, but I am not remotely "the rich" and tax cuts for "the rich" would not directly benefit me.

steveha

Re:Tax cuts for the rich? (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36816162)

You make some good points. But on the other hand large-scale socio-economic policy is very complicated.

There are some people who view the above as a problem; this problem is called "the rich get richer". Even if the poor get richer also, which confuses me.

In principle we should only care about people's standards of living. If everyone is getting richer in the sense that each person has a higher standard of living, that is certainly a good thing! However one problem with the rich getting richer faster than the poor get richer is that it creates a larger social disparity. While we can argue about whether disparity in itself is a moral problem, there are certainly very real problems that result from it. In particular, the massive consolidation of money (hence power) in the hands of fewer and fewer people leads to those people having disproportionate influence in what is supposed to be a democratic system. The end result can be (and history has examples of this) that the rights of certain classes are trampled. In extreme cases the marginalized class, the poor or even middle-class, will actual see their wealth or standard of living decrease at the expense of the upper class. And all this is before even touching issues such as social unrest, crime, etc.

So, there is logic in preventing one group of people from accumulating wealth too quickly. We have ample enough precedent to know that this process, left unchecked, leads to to over-consolidation, which is immoral and, it turns out, economically inefficient also. (Money is a book-keeping method that requires people to accept it. When the measure of wealth is overly skewed, people stop trusting it or using it. In extreme cases this manifests as revolts, revolutions, and beheading of monarchs.) Wealth redistribution is an ugly business at times, but the alternative -- massive unchecked power consolidation -- is actually worse.

Having said that, I will return to my original point: these issues are complex. There is certainly such a thing as over-taxation, and such a thing as under-taxation. Determining the optimal taxation level is... difficult.

Re:Tax cuts for the rich? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36816194)

If the wealthy get richer more than the poor get richer, then at the end of the day, the wealthy will have an even larger portion of limited resources (like land).

Re:Tax cuts for the rich? (1)

misexistentialist (1537887) | more than 2 years ago | (#36816218)

And how does that rich person hurt the poor by getting richer?

Everyone who wants tax cuts seems to always want to pay for them by eliminating Medicare, Social Security, the minimum wage etc. Wealth is supposedly created somehow, but most of the time it looks like a zero-sum game with the rich taking from everyone else.

Wrong assumption (1)

leromarinvit (1462031) | more than 2 years ago | (#36815984)

The assumption that we have to take "the coming age of austerity" for granted is backwards. Health care and research aren't mutually exclusive. We need both, and the world has enough resources to provide both!

is it "redundancy" or "reproducible results"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36816018)

If only one person does an experiment, that is only half of the science. You have to have an independent team (or preferably several) who can repeat the experiment to verify the results.

Tax Cuts (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36816126)

"tax cuts for the richest Americans"
Nice to see an unbiased statement with no political ax to grind. I'm gonna rush right over and read this "article." :P

Dear U.S. Scientists: +4, Informative (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36816152)

Your first premise is wrong. There is no U.S.A.

Move to another country.

Yours In Osh,
K. Trout

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