Rescue Package Passed with Bonuses – None for Science and Technology

October 4th, 2008

Posted by: admin

Besides demonstrating the continuing ineptitude of Congress and its leadership, the bailout – or what’s not in it – is further evidence of the impotence of science and technology funding advocates.  Part of the reason the second rescue package garnered sufficient votes is the spending piggybacked onto the original plan.  You may have already heard of the various tax credits and incentives added to the bill, including the R & D and alternative energy provisions I mentioned earlier this week. Taxpayers for Common Sense have analyzed the bill and found that the Senate added $110 billion to the $700 billion figure we’re all very familiar with by now.  None of that money will go toward fully funding the science agencies targeted by the America COMPETES Act.  Between the bailout and the continuing resolution that will fund the first half of the current fiscal year, science and technology research funding continues to lose.

These losses suggest to me that the one ’success’ research communities have had since the doubling of the National Institutes of Health budget – the Rising Above the Gathering Storm report – is actually a failure.  That research and policy communities still perceive it a success – criticism aside – compounds the failure.  It’s as though the science and technology advocacy communities are classical physicists in an Einsteinian universe.  The world does not correspond with their perceptions of it, and they don’t recognize it, much less know what to do about it.

Contrary to the rhetoric and community attention connected to Rising Above the Gathering Storm, the policy recommendations in the document have effectively been ignored.  Sure, legislation has been passed, the issues raised in the document have been discussed, but the money hasn’t arrived.  To radically paraphrase the old philosophical cliché, if a policy document does not lead to implemented policy, did it make a difference?  You know my answer – tell me why I’m wrong.

Last week I urged that research communities seriously consider alternative sources of funding, because it seems clear that the federal government will not raise their allowances any time soon.  It also seems that they need to treat their policy recommendations different than their other research output.  It’s not enough to publish and publicize.  That will do for establishing and maintaining academic credentials, tenure and reputation.  But to have policy relevance requires something different – an ability to take knowledge and recommendations and convert them into action.

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