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SOPA Creator Now In Charge of NSF Grants

Unknown Lamer posted about a year ago | from the dinosaurs-walked-with-man dept.

Government 307

sl4shd0rk writes "Remember SOPA? If not, perhaps the name Lamar Smith will ring a bell. The U.S. House Committee on Science, Space and Technology chose Smith to Chair as an overseer for the National Science Foundation's funding process. Smith is preparing a bill (PDF) which will require that every grant must benefit 'national defense,' be of 'utmost importance to society,' and not be 'duplicative of other research.' Duplicating research seems reasonable until you consider that this could also mean the NSF will not provide funding for research once someone has already provided results — manufactured or otherwise. A strange target since there is a process in place which makes an effort to limit duplicate funding already. The first and second requirements, even when read in context, still miss the point of basic research. If we were absolutely without-a-doubt-certain of the results, there would be little point in doing the research in the first place."

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307 comments

Job (5, Insightful)

puddingebola (2036796) | about a year ago | (#43589269)

This job got easier when I realized nobody was going to try and duplicate my results.

Re:Job (2)

TWiTfan (2887093) | about a year ago | (#43589409)

It just got easier for companies like Pfizer and Monsanto too, now that they don't have to worry about any government-funded researchers trying to compete with their for-profit research.

but who should duplicate... (1)

schlachter (862210) | about a year ago | (#43589681)

duplicating is critical for science...but I could understand if the NSF wants to focus on novel experiments/research, and leave the duplicating to other organizations who's interest has been peaked. The national security stuff is BS. Having a strong research culture and scientific knowledge is critical to our national security.

Re:but who should duplicate... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43589817)

piqued, not peaked. I don't normally nitpick, but those 2 ... they mean the exact opposite.

Interest that has peaked means that it will never again be that high again.
Interest that has been piqued means that it was low to nothing, and has become something, and may continue to grow.

The purpose of research (5, Insightful)

erroneus (253617) | about a year ago | (#43589271)

The purpose of research is to create evidence when we make a case for something we want. We *will* duplicate research programs so that we have an increased chance of getting the results we are paying for. But once those reqults are acquired, no further research is needed.

Smoking is good for you.

Re:The purpose of research (5, Funny)

Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) | about a year ago | (#43589327)

Now, come on, be fair. There really isn't any good data that fossil fuels are going to run out soon at current usage rates, and renewable energy sources will by nature always cost at least 17x as much. We don't need any more research, all that climate change nonsense has been debunked already.

Also, switching to renewables would cost jobs*, and the sun doesn't have an infinite supply of energy either so if we take too much it will cool and the whole planet will die.

* in my state

Re:The purpose of research (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43589377)

The sun has finite energy, it's just over a billion years worth.

Re:The purpose of research (1)

Joce640k (829181) | about a year ago | (#43589827)

The sun has finite energy.

Is that different from "the sun doesn't have an infinite supply of energy"?

Re:The purpose of research (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43589993)

I thought this was meant to be funny, it's quite scary that it's modded interesting.

You do know that "taking energy" from the sun in the form of solar power doesn't actually cause it to cool down right?

Re:The purpose of research (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43589873)

Heh. Back in the day they encouraged pregnant women to smoke, it reduced the baby's weight and made deliveries easier. I'm glad we did more research on that topic...

ah the anti-NSF crowd again (5, Interesting)

Trepidity (597) | about a year ago | (#43589283)

A certain set of Republican politicians are very opposed to the National Science Foundation, as far as I can tell for two reasons:

1. For some politicians (and grassroots conservatives), they oppose some of the actual research being done. For example, they do not want to fund global-warming research, do not want to fund studies of gun violence, and do not particularly want there to be social-science research into issues such as racism or economic inequality.

2. For other politicians, it's just a convenient source of material for people who want to pose as cutting government spending without having to propose serious cuts any of the programs that take up more significant parts of the budget, because those are either too popular and/or politically too well-connected. Instead they just try to make political hay out of finding a few programs in the single-digit millions which they can attack as "frivolous". So, for example, Tom Coburn compiles an annual list of NSF-funded research projects he considers frivolous. You know, frivolous stuff like robotics research [ieee.org].

Re:ah the anti-NSF crowd again (5, Interesting)

dkleinsc (563838) | about a year ago | (#43589341)

For some politicians (and grassroots conservatives), they oppose some of the actual research being done.

And that right there is one of America's biggest problems: A significant number of people, spurred on by a certain television network and their religious organizations, actively do everything they can to remain ignorant of the world around them.

Some other research they really don't want to fund: pretty much all paleontology, non-fossil fuel energy sources, and what various industrial chemicals do to people.

Re:ah the anti-NSF crowd again (4, Insightful)

SirGarlon (845873) | about a year ago | (#43589567)

Whether to fund paleontology with tax dollars is a legitimate question. I happen to think dinosaurs rock and I can afford to pay my share of Jack Horner's salary, but a reasonable person might feel that the money could be better spent maintaining bridges or something.

I would welcome that kind of discussion. What I don't welcome is political maneuvering to hijack a federal agency to serve a minority interest.

Re:ah the anti-NSF crowd again (2)

jamstar7 (694492) | about a year ago | (#43590181)

Whether to fund paleontology with tax dollars is a legitimate question. I happen to think dinosaurs rock and I can afford to pay my share of Jack Horner's salary, but a reasonable person might feel that the money could be better spent maintaining bridges or something.

I would welcome that kind of discussion. What I don't welcome is political maneuvering to hijack a federal agency to serve a minority interest.

While cutting funding for paleontology to fund repairing bridges might sound reasonable, odds are, the funds siphoned away most likely won't be used to repair those bridges. Not when there's an election around the corner and there's pork to spread to buy votes. Not when defense contractors need their corporate welfare fix.

Re:ah the anti-NSF crowd again (4, Insightful)

ganjadude (952775) | about a year ago | (#43589613)

Grassroots conservatives really dont care about a lot of issues that the liberals claim that are for/against. I would wager it is safe to say the same for the way conservatives feel towards liberals ideas. I know a good portion of both and lean libertarian myself, Plain and simple the fringe is what is spoken about by both sides. If we asked neutral questions instead of loaded questions like the media (both fox and msnbc) we would be better off. Instead of asking "if we invest X into solar by raising taxes on Y (oil) is that good for the country?" how about we simply ask "would you switch over to solar if the cost was close to the same as you pay for energy today?"

do you see how one turns into a fight and the other does not?

I could point out that some research on both sides are utterly crap. funding the study of beetles migration habits? yeah I dont think we need to waste money on that one

Re:ah the anti-NSF crowd again (2)

Muad'Dave (255648) | about a year ago | (#43589741)

"would you switch over to solar if the cost was close to the same as you pay for energy today?"

Your question also has a slant - that cost is the only concern in switching to solar. If you're talking solar on their house, you omit the parts about the ugly panels, the batteries required, the cost of and maintenance on the panels and batteries, etc. If you're talking utility-provided solar, then there's the issue of great swaths of land covered in solar cells, the cost to the utility to convert, building-sized batteries or pumped-storage facilities that have to be build/maintained, etc.

My point is there's no easy way to ask a one sentence question for complicated issues like this.

Re:ah the anti-NSF crowd again (1)

ganjadude (952775) | about a year ago | (#43589789)

you make a good point, and I did see that as well. quite simply one is much more neutral than the prior while there is still slant. One is more of a make you think question. while the other is nothing but loaded.

Here in NY anyway there is a company who installs and maintains solar panels on your own home, however you dont own them, you are now feeding into the power grid, but you are still paying the same (or slightly lower) than before. saving the upfront high costs. I know one family who has done it and so far it seems to be a good plan. If there was a "rent to own" feature in the contract of the panels I would be more willing to go along with this particular model. Sorry for the off topic rant

Re:ah the anti-NSF crowd again (5, Insightful)

erroneus (253617) | about a year ago | (#43589343)

I don't want to fund research on gun violence either.

The problem ISN'T guns. It's the culture of people. We have a culture of violence in the US as much as we woud like to deny it. We glorify it in so many ways -- in the media, the movies, TV shows and pop music. Without that culture, the interest in guns would decrease with the exception of those who use them as intended -- as tools and defense. And without guns, the violence would change adjust.

Presently, we have beating by hand, foot, bludgeon, knife, sword, gun and by larger things such as automobile. To take away things from people who are innocent is punishment of the innocent. Can that really be justified because a particular means is demonized?

At the end of the day, violence takes many, many forms. To address the problem by separating the means is frivolous.

Re:ah the anti-NSF crowd again (2, Informative)

eddy (18759) | about a year ago | (#43589483)

You are crazy if you think availability doesn't play in. Ever [thedailyshow.com] heard [thedailyshow.com] of Australia [thedailyshow.com]? Yes, it's a people problem, but so is drunk driving. Fixing it means attacking it from all angles, both the tech and the people.

Re:ah the anti-NSF crowd again (-1, Troll)

VortexCortex (1117377) | about a year ago | (#43589489)

I don't want to fund research on gun violence either.

The problem ISN'T guns. It's the culture of people. We have a culture of violence in the US as much as we woud like to deny it. We glorify it in so many ways -- in the media, the movies, TV shows and pop music. Without that culture, the interest in guns would decrease with the exception of those who use them as intended -- as tools and defense. And without guns, the violence would change adjust.

I have to words for you moron: PROVE IT

Oh, you don't want any research -- you just want to put forth unfounded assertions without a leg to stand on and just claim they're true? Oh, you'd rather just argue back and forth for decades without any progress rather than have a logical way forward based on sound evidence and observation? Fuck You.

I agree we need guns and that they get an undeservedly bad wrap, but I'm a scientist, not an ignorant ass (operative word there being ignore), so I'd like some research results I can use to back up my claims and actually affect change. Get bent fool.

Re:ah the anti-NSF crowd again (0)

baffled (1034554) | about a year ago | (#43589579)

That was an intense response. Research.. who can argue with research? Did you have a specific research request? As a scientist, I suspect you can surmise an idea research path. Feel free to expound, ideally with less insult and more substance.

Re:ah the anti-NSF crowd again (0)

Lumpy (12016) | about a year ago | (#43589627)

"I have to words for you moron: PROVE IT"

No problem. All of my guns have not killed anyone. I set them out loaded and safety off and all day long they did not kill a single person or even go off.

Therefore I have proof that Guns are not the problem, People are the problem. Because guns can not kill anything without a person using it. I know that people like you are certian that they have souls and are possessed, but they are in fact not. They are inanimate objects and require a person to hold it and point it at someone and then pull the trigger to kill someone.

Re:ah the anti-NSF crowd again (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43589845)

Please go back to school. Re-read the section about the scientific method.

Re:ah the anti-NSF crowd again (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43589631)

but I'm a scientist, not an ignorant ass

Reading your post and your posting history, I disagree. You are an ignorant ass.

You're a whiny bitch who goes straight to acting like someone who in real life would likely get punched in the nose quite often.

If you were a scientist, you'd understand reasoned debate, not being a douchebag.

Re:ah the anti-NSF crowd again (1)

ganjadude (952775) | about a year ago | (#43589655)

it has been proven time and time again

gun free zones do not stop murder from happening. In places where there is strict anti gun laws, the crime rates are higher then in places without anti gun laws

almost ever mass murder by gunman has taken place in gun free zones. I mean if you wanted to debate vortex thats one thing, but with the way you speak to people "lower than you" (since you are a scientist and all) make it not even worth it.

Re:ah the anti-NSF crowd again (3, Insightful)

dragonsomnolent (978815) | about a year ago | (#43589801)

Not to burst your bubble regarding places with strict anti gun laws but they don't all have higher crime rates (for violent crimes anyway). Mexico has massive violent crime issues and strict gun control, whereas England has strict gun laws and they have a much lower rate of violent crime. Of interesting note, in Switzerland, where there isn't gun registration, they have a very low rate of violent crime overall. Seems to me that the violence has a lot more to do with other factors than just the legality of firearms. Source: http://www.quandl.com/society/oecd-murder-rates [quandl.com]

Re:ah the anti-NSF crowd again (1)

ganjadude (952775) | about a year ago | (#43589893)

There are other factors and I am only using our country and our values as a bassis. You look in places in america that have open carry, you dont have as much violent crime as you do in places where you cannot have a gun. that is a fact in america.

Mexico kind of proves my point, hardcore strict gun laws, yet a very high violent crime rate (we can argue that the drug war contributes to the high gun rate as well)

Re:ah the anti-NSF crowd again (1)

ganjadude (952775) | about a year ago | (#43590277)

and to be fair, the link you cited spoke of murder, however you kept using the term violent crime. Those numbers vary differently. murder is not really the important meteric to me personally, violent crime is. the fact remains I am far more likely to be hit by lightning than murdered by another human in the USA. violent crime I have a way higher chance of becoming a victim to compared to being murdered.

Re:ah the anti-NSF crowd again (1)

ganjadude (952775) | about a year ago | (#43589695)

But for one prime example on how gunfree zones will not stop murder, even if we got rid of guns completely. take boston. it is a gun free city, and yet there are over 240 people injured in a matter of seconds, far quicker than what it took for the gunman in conn to take out a classroom. I am sure there are other examples on how gun control does not stop criminals

Re:ah the anti-NSF crowd again (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43589887)

[citation needed]

Examples are not proof/research or anything more than distraction. I'm amazed at the responses in this thread.

Re:ah the anti-NSF crowd again (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43589835)

I agree we need guns and that they get an undeservedly bad wrap

Do you use tinfoil or Saran wrap on your guns?

I'm a scientist

Doubtful, scientists have gone to college for eight years and don't confuse homophones; only a high school dropout makes a homophone error. Calling yourself a scientist after that bit of illiteracy gives real scientist a bad rap.

Re:ah the anti-NSF crowd again (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43590187)

Gun availability has exploded over the last 20 years and gun violence has dropped to record lows? Science?

Re:ah the anti-NSF crowd again (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43589515)

Still, it seems that gun-deaths are much more frequent in the US than UK (for example), even when compared to other violent deaths. Clearly there are cultural differences, but maybe you people should regulate handling guns at least as much as you regulate driving cars?

Re:ah the anti-NSF crowd again (0)

Lumpy (12016) | about a year ago | (#43589635)

Mostly because we have a crap legal system and police cant be bothered with controlling crime. Here int he USA police are reactive and not proactive. This is a major contributing factor to our violence rate.

Re:ah the anti-NSF crowd again (1)

jamstar7 (694492) | about a year ago | (#43590255)

Yes, our legal system is very seriously fucked. Yes, the police are more janitor than guardian. An alternative is 'pre-crime', arrest anybody who is capable of committing a crime. With our legal system, anybody can be arrested for a crime. Shall we extend that to anyone thinking of committing a crime? We're already jailing 5 times as many people as the rest of the world, shall we just put up walls with guard towers on them at the borders and admit we're a police state already?

Re:ah the anti-NSF crowd again (5, Insightful)

blueg3 (192743) | about a year ago | (#43589545)

I don't want to fund research on gun violence either.

The problem ISN'T guns. It's the culture of people. ...
Without that culture, the interest in guns would decrease with the exception of those who use them as intended -- as tools and defense. And without guns, the violence would change adjust.

See, figuring out whether or not that's true is what the research is for.

Re:ah the anti-NSF crowd again (1)

i kan reed (749298) | about a year ago | (#43589985)

Pssshaw, haven't you heard of this "Common Sense" thing. It's apparently a powerful portent, because any time I share research I've read about with conservatives, they tell me Common Sense has predicted its falsity. Clearly this magic crystal ball will also show you everything about guns and their sociological implications without any of that expensive research nonsense.

Re:ah the anti-NSF crowd again (1)

blueg3 (192743) | about a year ago | (#43590159)

Logic and philosophy, a.k.a. the educated man's common sense, had a good run of things. That was back when there were four elements, light traveled through the ether, and heat was a fluid.

Re:ah the anti-NSF crowd again (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43589625)

That is a false dichotomy. You do have a troubled culture around violence. You also have a gun proliferation problem. Both are problems on their own and they are worse in combination. It is not frivolous to decrease violence and death by fighting gun proliferation. Reducing gun ownership could in itself help to improve the culture. The argument you have to make is that spreading guns around is worth the extra violence and deaths. You need to address the real issues instead of just trying to deny them. If you thought that you were right, why do you oppose the research that would prove that you are correct?

Re:ah the anti-NSF crowd again (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43589943)

You also have a gun proliferation problem.

Yes, gun proliferation has dropped markedly and needs to increase before the balance of power is upset forever.

Re:ah the anti-NSF crowd again (1)

PvtVoid (1252388) | about a year ago | (#43589673)

I don't want to fund research on gun violence either.

The problem ISN'T guns.

So you've already made up your mind, and you're opposed to research that might provide evidence that would force you to change your mind? Nice.

Re:ah the anti-NSF crowd again (0)

Runaway1956 (1322357) | about a year ago | (#43590265)

There has been a lot of research done, in the form of experimentation. The empirical data gathered suggests a plan of action that is contrary to the gun control zealots. So - that empirical data is suppressed at every opportunity, and more "research" is called for.

When a city or state enacts draconian gun control laws - crime goes up. When a city or state relaxes gun control laws - crime goes down.

Stories about crimes being averted because someone had a gun are squashed. They never get into the mainstream media. Those stories tend to disprove the gun control advocate's theories, so they don't get national attention.

There may be dishonesty on the part of the NRA, or other gun rights activists, but I don't see it. The dishonesty of the gun CONTROL advocates is blatant.

As for the common man with no dog in the fight - he believes what he hears, 45 times each month. He never hears about the teenage boy defending himself AND his little sister from a home invader. Never hears any of the stories about legally owned guns saving lives, saving property, saving virginity, saving dignity. It's only the ILLEGAL guns we hear about, which are ALREADY illegal!

Re:ah the anti-NSF crowd again (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43589831)

why do you assume the research would lead to taking away guns? it could just help us be smarter about it. your insistence on being ignorant about the issue doesn't help. it could help us identify the social causes with gun violence. as it stands, there are very few mass-produced weapons that are as good at killing as guns, so they'll always be involved in research in violence.

Re:ah the anti-NSF crowd again (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43589899)

The violence culture argument only seems convincing if you think the universe stops at the American border. Many countries in the world like the UK and Australia consume the same violent media as the US, but don't have the same levels of gun violence. How do they differ? Gun control, better education, less iniquity.

But why leave it to hypothesizing when we could fund detailed research by actual scientists - the sort of thing that this bill will hamper?

Re:ah the anti-NSF crowd again (1)

interkin3tic (1469267) | about a year ago | (#43590219)

The problem ISN'T guns. It's the culture of people. We have a culture of violence in the US as much as we woud like to deny it. We glorify it in so many ways -- in the media, the movies, TV shows and pop music. Without that culture, the interest in guns would decrease with the exception of those who use them as intended -- as tools and defense. And without guns, the violence would change adjust.

That's a hypothesis. You're doing the first part of research on gun violence right now. Unfortunately, it's the second part that's a lot harder, more expensive, and ultimately, worth anything at all. Without the second part, the first part is only worth the paper (or webpage) it's written on.

Re:ah the anti-NSF crowd again (1)

IICV (652597) | about a year ago | (#43590227)

I don't want to fund research on gun violence either.

Well congratulations then, that's actually been passed into law. [wikipedia.org] It's nearly impossible for academics to get the raw data they would need to do research, entirely due to that one amendment to some random bill.

Re:ah the anti-NSF crowd again (1)

rocket rancher (447670) | about a year ago | (#43590273)

No, the problem pretty much is guns. There are more [gunpolicy.org] guns [cnn.com] than [fas.org] citizens [justfacts.com] in the US; it's the fucking supply of guns and the easy access to them that is the problem, not the culture that glorifies them. I can buy a gun legally 24/7 in my state without ever disclosing my identity to the seller, and pretty soon I'll be able to print a durable, functional version of my beloved Mac 10. Until the gun-show and private-sale loopholes in gun laws are closed, and 3D-printing gets the draconian regulation it needs, easy access to guns is what you need to be worrying about. The existing supply of guns in the US is enough to meet any foreseeable demand for them in our violence-saturated culture, even if Glock, Beretta, Sig, and S&W go out of business tomorrow.

Re:ah the anti-NSF crowd again (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43589361)

Actually it was a group of mostly democrats who did not want scientific studies into race/economic nature vs nurture studies and who denied funding to comprehensive statistical study of gun violence. But you are right about a mostly republican group not wanting to fund more global-warming research. Although somehow studies on bovine gas emissions are fine...probably because it affected global warming and farmers so it pissed both side off equally.

The problem isn't a republican vs democrat thing. It is a southern "god-fearing" group that seems to dismiss technology in general, and there are members from both parties.

Re:ah the anti-NSF crowd again (1)

baffled (1034554) | about a year ago | (#43589641)

Does the NSF have budget constraints? Do they have to determine which proposals get funded and which don't, or do they fund as much as they want? How do they prioritize their selections? Should those defining the budget have any input on the priorities? These seem pertinent questions that I see neither discussed nor addressed.

Re:ah the anti-NSF crowd again (1)

sociocapitalist (2471722) | about a year ago | (#43590017)

A certain set of Republican politicians are very opposed to the National Science Foundation, as far as I can tell for two reasons:

1. For some politicians (and grassroots conservatives), they oppose some of the actual research being done. For example, they do not want to fund global-warming research, do not want to fund studies of gun violence, and do not particularly want there to be social-science research into issues such as racism or economic inequality.

2. For other politicians, it's just a convenient source of material for people who want to pose as cutting government spending without having to propose serious cuts any of the programs that take up more significant parts of the budget, because those are either too popular and/or politically too well-connected. Instead they just try to make political hay out of finding a few programs in the single-digit millions which they can attack as "frivolous". So, for example, Tom Coburn compiles an annual list of NSF-funded research projects he considers frivolous. You know, frivolous stuff like robotics research [ieee.org].

It might be worth pointing out that Lama Smith is opposed to abortion, and thus most likely anything to do with stem cell research.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lamar_S._Smith#Tenure [wikipedia.org]

Re:ah the anti-NSF crowd again (2)

Nemesisghost (1720424) | about a year ago | (#43590115)

Oh, there's even a bigger problem with Smith being in charge of the NSF budget. The dude's a Christian Scientist, but not a real scientist. I'm Mormon with my BS in Applied Physics, so I can get the religious vs scientific belief issues. But here's a dude who's whole religion rejects science outright. Up until recently, they'd rather let people die, suffer needlessly through debilitating diseases, or become permanently disabled because "they weren't believing right" and if they wanted to be healed they just needed to "think" themselves healed. And now one of them is in charge of how the US pays for scientific endeavors. WHAT THE @#$!?!?!?!? I expect in the next year or two there will be grants given for Indiana Jones like expeditions to locate the Arc, Noah's Ark, Solomon's Temple, and the wood that made up Christ's cross.

idiots, idiots everywhere. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43589313)

How do we as a nation let these clowns have any sort of power.

Re:idiots, idiots everywhere. (5, Insightful)

CFBMoo1 (157453) | about a year ago | (#43589447)

Because we as a nation keep asking for them because:

* They help our business interests.
* They appeal to our religious convictions.
* They look good and sound good on the local TV.
* We think no wrong of them because it's always the other idiots outside our districts that are the problem all over the country.
* We actually think these people care for us and buy in to the bull in the campaign ads.

Uninformed and uneducated voters are killing the country. They scream about kicking carrier politicians out but never really start with their own house while expecting somoene else to do it elsewhere.

Re:idiots, idiots everywhere. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43589665)

"They scream about kicking carrier politicians ", are they like fighting carrier pidgeons? I'm thinking you meant "Career politicians" though both seem to perform the same, returning back to the place of roost.

Re:idiots, idiots everywhere. (5, Informative)

i kan reed (749298) | about a year ago | (#43590047)

"We" didn't. My state voted 54% to 45% for democratic representatives, due to gerrymandering in 2010, that resulted in 9 republican reps and 4 democratic ones.

They have power because they have power, and use that power to maintain power.

Re:idiots, idiots everywhere. (1)

Black Parrot (19622) | about a year ago | (#43590251)

How do we as a nation let these clowns have any sort of power.

I like Jon Stewart's send-up [crooksandliars.com] of another professional congressional 'ktard. (Sorry, eight minutes long, and you have to watch the whole thing to see the full depth of the idiocy. But then it's Jon Stewart, so you may want to invest the eight minutes anyway.)

Lord help us! (1)

beep54 (1844432) | about a year ago | (#43589329)

I used to have a good Representative (Lloyd Doggett) until I got gerrymandered into this idiot's district. At least now I can vote against him...

How to do real science (5, Interesting)

GenieGenieGenie (942725) | about a year ago | (#43589333)

Science is nothing without replication. If you are building an experimental approach based on some result, you have to replicate it before building on this result any further, otherwise your method might be flawed.

To make this clear - let's say some lab produced a result that chemical A is a carcinogen. And I want to test whether this depends on other factors, e.g. genetic background, immune system response, whatever. I will first replicate the result before going on, otherwise I don't have a method. It's that simple.

People in these positions have to be scientist, or at least have had a scientific training, this is a good example of why.

Re:How to do real science (2)

rmstar (114746) | about a year ago | (#43589661)

Science is nothing without replication.

It is sort of funny in an unsettling way that commenters got worked up about that, and not about

every grant must benefit 'national defense'

which truly sounds batshit crazy. I'd expect that of an Iranian or Norky minister, but not of someone overseeing research funding in a civilized country.

Re:How to do real science (2)

Culture20 (968837) | about a year ago | (#43589915)

every grant must benefit 'national defense'

Because it doesn't sound so crazy in its original context where it's nationally funded and only one of a group of qualifications that are joined by logical ors, not logical ands.

Re:How to do real science (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43589841)

How many published research articles are about reproducibility of results? Scientists would go far for their practice if they radically improved the quality of their processes. I know of several funded "scientists" who don't know the key features of the scientific method.

Re:How to do real science (1)

Ded Bob (67043) | about a year ago | (#43590133)

It depends on what is meant by duplication. If two groups are researching the same thing using the same means regarding the same factors, then that is doing something in parallel. I can see that as a (possible) waste of money that could be used to research something else concurrently. Only slight related, when it is different agencies funding the same party, then you have fraud: http://www.nature.com/news/duplicate-grant-case-puts-funders-under-pressure-1.9984 [nature.com]

Replication is different and would not fall under duplication as it is done serially. First, one group does research into the topic followed by a separate group that tries to reproduce the results. Trying to replicate the results at the same time as another group that is unfinished with their research is potentially wasteful.

If the results are useful, then I am sure some entity will try to reproduce it without government funding. If the project was politically-motivated, then I am almost certain another party will fund research into that topic without need for government funding.

Personally, I wish the news would do a little research into past projects that were duplicated to either prove or disprove the issue with duplication. They just want a fight between the two parties to get more readers. I guess this was too hard for them to find: http://www.coburn.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?a=Files.serve&File_id=2dccf06d-65fe-4087-b58d-b43ff68987fa [senate.gov] Page 20 talks about duplication between the various agencies. Skimming through that report really makes me want to have the NSF cleaned. For example, "An Indiana University (IU) professor received a $263,281 grant from the NSF to study the social impact of tourism in the country of Norway." Funding that over cancer research?!?

Unfortunately... (5, Insightful)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about a year ago | (#43589349)

Alas, the 'national defense' bit is by far the less problematic portion:

"(1) is in the interests of the United States to
  advance the national health, prosperity, or welfare,
  and to secure the national defense by promoting the
  progress of science;"

Ok, so (1) doesn't include noble goals like "Science, because knowing shit is awesome!"; but it's vacuous enough that nearly anything fits. If it is 'science' it probably helps you(or may help you in the future) manipulate the world in some way, and any positive manipulations count as 'national health, prosperity, or welfare' and any negative ones can be dropped on people we dislike and called 'national defense'.

"(2) is the finest quality, is ground breaking,
  and answers questions or solves problems that are of
  utmost importance to society at large;"

Here's where it goes downhill: Basic Research, motherfucker, have you heard of it? Contrary to what the movies might have led you to believe, 'science' isn't something that a single multidisciplinarian genius brings from test tube to field-ready superpower within a 10 minute montage set in a 'laboratory' that looks more like a small datacenter set up to impress visitors. And, when a given piece of research is the lucky one to go down in history as "Dr. Somebody Invented X", the writeup will have about a zillion papers of the form "A banal and seemingly pointless characterization of bandgap somethingorother in ionized flebatonium" that seemed like pointless noodling until they turned out to be useful.

C'mon, Lamar, I realize that not much gets past your shit-eating grin and incredible density; but surely you don't imagine that scientists who could be out raking in the nobels and lucrative startup stock by cranking out world-altering research of staggering utility are just holding out on us, and sequencing random beetle genomes because grantwriting is just so much fun? If there were plenty of 'groundbreaking' research that 'answers questions or solves problems of utmost importance to society at large' scientists would be shiving one another with broken Erlenmeyer flasks to be the first to do it. Guess what, most of science is just prep work for the good stuff, much of which we don't even know will be the good stuff until we've already done the prep work.

Clause 1 is just babble, of no real consequence(except perhaps to make paper abstracts and grant proposals even more vaguely optimistic); but clause 2 essentially provides unlimited scope to defund absolutely anything that isn't the final stages of a successful R&D exercise.

Re:Unfortunately... (3, Interesting)

lcampagn (842601) | about a year ago | (#43589563)

Serendipity is one of the most important forces in scientific progress. I think it would be awesome if slashdot readers could compile a list of their favorite transformative research projects that would never have been funded under the proposed bill. After a few days, we can compile them into a letter and send it to our representatives.

Re:Unfortunately... (5, Informative)

lcampagn (842601) | about a year ago | (#43589803)

I'll start: 1) Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) is an essential technique in molecular biology. It is the technique that gave us the human genome project and is a key aprt of virtually every major genetic discovery for the last 20 years. Its beginnings, however, are much more humble: PCR depends on the use of thermostable polymerases to amplify DNA strands. This brings us to 1965, when Thomas Brock was studying Thermus acquaticus bacteria from hydrothermal vents. From these, he isolated Taq polymerase. At the time, nobody had any clue that hydrophilic bacteria were of national interest.

2) The discovery of green fluorescent protein, one of the most widely used tools in molecular biology. From wikipedia: "In the 1960s and 1970s, GFP, along with the separate luminescent protein aequorin, was first purified from Aequorea victoria and its properties studied by Osamu Shimomura. . . However, its utility as a tool for molecular biologists did not begin to be realized until 1992 when Douglas Prasher reported the cloning and nucleotide sequence of wtGFP in Gene.[6] The funding for this project had run out, so Prasher sent cDNA samples to several labs. The lab of Martin Chalfie expressed the coding sequence of wtGFP, with the first few amino acids deleted, in heterologous cells of E. coli and C. elegans, publishing the results in Science in 1994."

Re:Unfortunately... (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43589973)

I'm sure half the research outlined here wouldn't have happened [wikipedia.org] if people had been funded only with principles like the ones in this bill. I mean, what the hell kind of national defense benefits could there be from experiments like firing protons at the nucleus of lithium atoms or trying to fuse light nuclei together? And what possible benefit could there be to society at large of investigating the possibility of neutron-initiated chain reactions with uranium nuclei? It's all a bunch of Jewish physicists playing with their silly and irrelevant theories. Why should we allocate our precious resources to this when there is a war on? It probably wouldn't even work.

[This message brought to you by the German Nazi Party in the 1930s, who also thought it worthwhile to politicize science [wikipedia.org]]

I really don't want to Godwin this thread already, because it's a great idea you have proposed. It's a nice way to show how badly the proposed bill will align with the way science actually works. But I think besides compiling examples of important research that wouldn't have been funded, it's also worthwhile to point out how badly science goes off the rails and how badly it affects a country when politics interferes too much. It didn't work well for Nazi Germany, it didn't work well for the USSR with Lysenkoism [wikipedia.org], and there are plenty of other examples [wikipedia.org] closer to home.

Science funded by the public should be answerable to the broader goals of public interest. No question. But mess with it too much in terms of dictating how the results should play out (before you've actually done the experiment!), and you're simply going to undermine the scientific process. It's fair to set priorities for the work to be done (so much for defense-related stuff, so much for health-related stuff, so much for "basic research", and so on), and you should demand quality research that passes the harsh and competitive scrutiny of fellow scientists, but that's about it. You should allow some freedom to generally explore, otherwise you're going to miss a lot that may turn out to be vitally important.

Re:Unfortunately... (1)

Barefoot Monkey (1657313) | about a year ago | (#43589959)

C'mon, Lamar, I realize that not much gets past your shit-eating grin and incredible density; but surely you don't imagine that scientists who could be out raking in the nobels and lucrative startup stock by cranking out world-altering research of staggering utility are just holding out on us, and sequencing random beetle genomes because grantwriting is just so much fun? If there were plenty of 'groundbreaking' research that 'answers questions or solves problems of utmost importance to society at large' scientists would be shiving one another with broken Erlenmeyer flasks to be the first to do it.

Not me. I miss out on all the groundbreaking research because of my demanding studies of which flasks make the best shivs. But once my experiments are complete I'll show them. Yes, then I'll show them all...

Re:Unfortunately... (1)

njnnja (2833511) | about a year ago | (#43590011)

First, it is great that someone actually looked up the specific language. But after reading it, I am less worried than I was by just reading the summary. I partially agree with your analysis on the first paragraph. But it is not merely babble. If you read it from the point of view of a limited-government conservative, who believes in an originalist interpretation of the Constitution, it is very important to tie the work of the NSF (or any part of government) back to justice, domestic tranquility, common defence, or general welfare. Therefore it is not merely vacuous - it is an important argument against the ~50% people who vote Republican and by pure chance will win ever other election (or so). In a democracy, it is best to convince your opponents rather than rely on out-voting them every single time, even if that means that you only get half a loaf.

Fortunately, you are right that it is broad enough to drive a truck through. But that is no mere accident; basic research, even from a Republican perspective, is often an OK government expenditure if it is argued carefully and respectfully, and the spending is carefully tailored so as not to be wasteful. And that is the real point of this - not to deny funding to science, but rather to prove conservative bona fides and push conservative priorities in science. Will that mean fewer grants to climate science? Probably. But maybe more funding to DARPA battery research. In two or four years, the hands controlling the purse-strings will probably change, and priorities of the NSF will change as well, so it's tough to get too worked up about it. I would be more worried if the Republicans just said that they are cutting off funding to the NSF rather than saying, as they are, we are going to defund X and fund more Y.

And honestly, if you were to ask me personally whether we need YACCS [wikipedia.org] (Yet Another Climate Change Study) or a new DARPA challenge [darpa.mil], I would rather have cool new robots!

Re:Unfortunately... (1)

BakaHoushi (786009) | about a year ago | (#43590197)

Very well put. I often have this problem when talking to people about space exploration.

"Why should we go to space? Why do we need to do research out there? What will I get out of it?"

That's the thing. We don't know what we'll get out of it until we get it.

Patriot Science (1)

PvtVoid (1252388) | about a year ago | (#43589365)

Let's see. We'll only fund research proposals that support the idea that America is always right, no matter what.

What could possibly go wrong?

Look at the upside (1)

TWiTfan (2887093) | about a year ago | (#43589393)

With a Republican in charge, there will be plenty of grant money for anyone looking for conduct research to disprove evolution or global warming.

Oxymoron (1)

cheapbastard (1534205) | about a year ago | (#43589421)

Don't these two goals conflict? Benefit national defence and of utmost importance to society?

Re:Oxymoron (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43590089)

Defending a society against its enemies is pretty important to that society, wouldn't you say?

Learning from History... (5, Informative)

malkavian (9512) | about a year ago | (#43589441)

For those that have even a fragment of history, you'll remember that the middle east used to be a center of learning and science.
In the days of the crusades, their scientific knowledge far outstripped that of Europe (there's a reason the numerals we use today are called "arabic numerals".
So, what happened to change that? Did Europe suddenly invest massively in science to go toe to toe? Alas not. Religious zealots got in places of power, and started to dictate that the progress of science was "against the will of god" (as the priesthood didn't understand it, so it scared them, and anything that scares a religious zealot is "against the will of god"). The role of religion in Europe started to lessen, allowing scientific method to progress apace and advancement to occur.

There's a reason ethics committees exist for scientific projects; the lay-people on them are a voice for the average person: They force the people doing pure science to think carefully about ramifications of performing experimentation in a particular fashion (is the experiment ethical? Can the way it's performed in a different way, not affecting the core of the theory, that is ethical?). The professionals are there to ensure the science is actually valid and to pick out the ones sloppily created that are mathematically wrong, or are unable by structure to draw the conclusions they're looking for from the experiments performed.

I'm vaguely hopeful that this incursion of zealotry into the workings of scientific progress can be rooted out and cast aside, but from the path that the US has been following towards a combination between a corporate feudalism headed by a close to a theocracy (what are the chances of an atheist being elected president these days, since the pledge of allegiance was altered in 1954 to include the "under god" segment; no, for you younger ones, that wasn't part of the original, and was tagged on for political ends), it's not a certainty. That's somewhat worrying really.

Re:Learning from History... (3, Insightful)

belthize (990217) | about a year ago | (#43589605)

This is why we need research, even in the soft sciences like history. Without such research it's trivial for put forth ideas that sound self evident and they become 'truth'.

This series of articles suggests it was economic collapse and not religious dogma. http://www.history-science-technology.com/articles/articles%208.htm [history-sc...nology.com]

I don't know which is true, they both sound plausible. The fact is science is good and it should not be retarded in the name of religion or short term economic relief.

Re:Learning from History... (5, Informative)

muecksteiner (102093) | about a year ago | (#43589727)

You have a point there. Up to a point, that is.

What you write is, by and large, the currently accepted mainstream narrative in Western culture. Two extremely important issues with this are frequently overlooked, though:

a) The scientifically advanced Islamic world of the early middle ages was the result of rapid military conquest of a sizeable chunk of places that were amongst the most advanced regions on the planet: the Hellenistic states, other left-overs from the Roman Empire, as well as various cultures on the Indian sub-continent. All these were conquered by force, and absorbed into the early Islamic states. And for some time, the new Muslim rulers presided over empires that were very technologically and scientifically advanced - because the regions they had conquered had already been very advanced before being absorbed into the new Islamic states.

And crucially, in the first few centuries, the ruling classes, and the clerics, did nothing much to impede the existing culture of science and letters in their new dominions - quite the contrary, they encouraged the spreading of technologies. Point in case: the "arabic numerals" you mention were brought to Europe from India by returning Arab conquerors. The scientific and cultural riches the Muslim rulers presided over were mostly not the product of Islamic culture per se, but they did not hinder the further development of what was there. And in some cases, considerable progress was actually made - there are a number of notable Muslim scholars from this era.

However, at some point, Islamic culture ossified (for reasons that are very complex, and not entirely understood even today), became increasingly hostile towards science, and created the backwards mess that we see today. It is crucial, though, to always bear in mind that the "golden age of Islamic culture" was never entirely a product of the Islamic world to begin with. Far from it, actually. Like everyone else, they heavily built on the foundations their predecessors had built.

b) The second point, that Europe only started to catch up once the influence of religion (read: Christianity) started to wane is simply not tenable, either. Not in a narrow reading, anyway. What happened from the Age of Enlightenment onwards was that the focus of society *and religion* changed in ways that made scientific endeavour possible and fruitful - crucially, without removing Christianity per se from public life, or the culture at large. Far too many scientists over time were Christian clerics for the narrow reading to be true: there are science-averse interpretations of Christian doctrine, but these are by no means exclusive, or dominant.

Re:Learning from History... (4, Interesting)

LordLucless (582312) | about a year ago | (#43590123)

Yada yada yada, science and religion incompatible, religion a heinous evil, science the hope of mankind, etc, etc.

At different periods of time and in different places, religion and science have had different relationships. At the time when the Arabs conquered India and absorbed the Arabic-Hindu numeral system, they were heavily Islamic. Likewise, Alhazen's optics, and Sina's work on medicine were performed while their political system was dominated by Islam.

Likewise, in Europe, much early scientific work was done by clerics (as they were most likely to be literate). Much of their work was predicated on the notion that the world was rational and organised - a philosophy that flowed from their religious belief (that God was a god of order, and thus the universe itself must be ordered). Their investigations were into exploring the order God had created.

Even now, pretty much everywhere apart from the USA, there's little conflict. It's the USA that's birthed both southern baptists and the new atheist movement. Your religion, politics and science have become so intertwined, that there's almost no issue that isn't considered to touch on all three. But everywhere else in the Western world, you don't see these issues: other countries don't have court cases over whether or not to teach evolution; they just teach it.

You're right in that there's a decline in science when secular power is held by people who are threatened by the truth - but that's not necessarily a religion problem. Both religious and secular leaders have opposed scientific conclusions, because it undermined their authority, or ran counter to their own interests (this philosophy implies that I, the king, do not have a divine mandate to rule - suppress it! This science implies that my oil tycoon buddies are screwing up the world - suppress it!). The common element is always political power, not religion. If you're looking for an enemy for science, politics is a much more suitable target than religion.

Morbo voice (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43589443)

"Science doesn't work that way!"

And this is how (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43589581)

USA will loose it's innovative edge.

When i hear this name i wanna smack some thing or some one.
One face comes to mind more than usual.

Duplicative Congress (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43589593)

One could plausibly argue that, since citizens are represented by two Senators and a Representative to the House, that half of the Senate and all of the House are duplicative and can be eliminated. It would certainly reduce cost and improve efficiency.

Re:Duplicative Congress (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43589903)

you could argue that, but you'd be wrong. they're not duplicative in that the service they provide is known as checks and balances. without it, there is none, therefore not duplicative. you could argue they do their job badly and inefficiently or even argue that it's not a good system to begin with and that maybe you don't want checks & balances. in any case though, the one argument you can't make is that it's duplicative.

Just because he's Republican, doesn't mean... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43589765)

Don't jump to conclusions, just because he's a Texas Republican doesn't mean he's one of the American Taliban that wants to send USA back to year zero.

I know that's the impression many of them give, but not all Republicans are morons buying that Fox News garbage.

National Defense!?!? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43589819)

Smith is preparing a bill (PDF) which will require that every grant must benefit 'national defense

Gee, lets militarize science. After all the world desperately needs more weapons of mass destruction.

Re:National Defense!?!? (4, Insightful)

tekrat (242117) | about a year ago | (#43589913)

Even better, the pentagon/military already funds their own basic research, that's what DARPA is all about -- the NSF is supposed to be separate for NON MILITARY purposes. So now everything is all about supporting the Military Industrial Complex.

Life, the Universe, Everything (1)

tekrat (242117) | about a year ago | (#43589891)

The above title represents the ONLY question to be answered by groundbreaking science that will be funded by the NSF from this point on (unless of course it involves new ways to blow stuff up).

So title every grant proposal with "Life The Universe, Everything" and genius politicians will grant you funds to pursue your "science". It's not like they ever actually READ those proposals, just the title, so go ahead and investigate beetle dung like you always have, just be ready to prove how it relates to everything.

About benefitting national defense (4, Interesting)

jrifkin (100192) | about a year ago | (#43589965)

This was addressed by Robert Wilson, the director of Fermilab, while addressing the Congressional Joint Committee on Atomic Energy
(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_R._Wilson)

  It has nothing to do directly with defending our country except to make it worth defending.

Can somebody please shoot that asshole? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43590037)

Terminal cancer patient with nothing to lose? Anyone?

I'm beginning to thing that the only way we will ever, EVER be rid of anti-science conservative shitheads like Lamar Smith is to put every last one of them them six feet under.

Suits (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43590177)

Great... another suit in charge of a research lab.
I've seen that before, personally.

This is why... (1)

Chas (5144) | about a year ago | (#43590205)

You don't put luddites with an IQ of near-zero in charge of science and finance.

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