if any was still needed, that incompetent meddlers will always find a way to meddle, and demonstrate their incompetence.
The chairman of the US House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, Lamar Smith (R-TX), is planning new legislation that would limit the scope of the National Science Foundation (NSF), the biggest research-funding organization in the US, and bring funding decisions under political oversight. Smith - you might remember him …
the bill would require each piece of funding to be signed off as unique, with no overlap with another study,
Believe it or not, there is absolutely no mechanism that checks to see if a proposed project is already being duplicated by another project. It's more about "Hey, Extreme Partisans Inc has been a big help in getting me re-elected. Let's give them an award to study the effect of global warming on ducks. Just take that "The Effect of Global Warming on Ducks" study we gave the other guys and change the name to "Ducks and the Effect of Global Warming". Good, time for lunch.
It is estimated that there is about $25Billion in project duplication, such as hundreds of identical studies on global warming and the Arctic ice.
"Surely, armies of researchers looking for evidence that Jesus rode a dinosaur will produce something useful !"
You don't need armies of researchers to find evidence of that. Anyone can find the Truth in a certain book. You might have heard of it, it's called The Bible.
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He wants the US to drop climate research, drop malaria research and research how humans and spend more money on research into just how God created the world in seven days.
Oh, and he probably wants to stop research into gerrymandering, given the perfectly logical shape of the district he represents:
(It's created to dilute the political power of San Antonio, a very liberal city, as much as possible.)
Presumably a joint "research" project funded together with Exxon. I'm sure they would be more careful this time since their last prominent scientist flipped on them and decided climate change IS happening after all.
However, my main reaction is that this again proves the need for better economic models. We need to think more clearly about research in the context of making the future better. I even have a proposed analysis in hand:
Seriously, the couch potatoes deserve more credit for helping the economy than they are usually given.
"I thought gerrymandering was invented by Al Gore. "
If it were it would be called Goremandering, dummy.
You're right about Massachusets, it's just the date you got wrong.
Governer Elbridge Gerry redistrictred Massachusets in 1812 to benifit the Democratic-Republican party. Don't see how you could blame Al Gore for that.
Politicians do not belong in science. They have little actual sway in the scientific community because someone once wisely separated them. That's what the issue is really all about, the fact that the NSF can largely ignore the politicians and being ignored makes them stomp their little feet and cry big Hippo tears. Congress and specifically the GOP are worse than spoiled pre-teens and I used to believe that was impossible.
The only positive out of all this is that both houses of Congress are so busy enjoying the smell their own farts while trying to shit in the other sides pool they can't get anything done. Bunch of moosedicks they are: Big and covered in pond scum.
What amazes me is one thing. EVERY time gun sales went up, the GOP ratcheted their rhetoric and insanity back.
Now, they're ignoring it. Indeed, they're ratcheting it up further and further.
Continuing to strike matches and toss them in a room whose floor is soaked with gasoline.
should extend as far as: If you profess belief in any organised religion, you cannot stand for or be elected to public office or called to the bar. It has been made clear many, many times throughout history that those who believe in invisible men in the sky are not competent to direct the affairs of civilisation.
Bugger "freedom of religion." It should be "freedom from religion." Along with the already-recognised freedoms from want, war, oppression and fear, at least three of which have religion as a primary cause.
I mean, imagine if people went around claiming "freedom of oppression" or "freedom of war?" It would be a fucking joke.
"Please forgive me. It's Monday morning here, and my sleep-in yesterday was rudely interrupted by some unwelcome peddlers of "the good news", so religion is pretty high on my hate-list at the moment!"
You lazy sloth! The Lord's day of rest was on SUNDAY why are you still sleeping in on MONDAY???
No it should just be treated like any mental illness.
If during your driving test you continually ask the invisble elfs on the steering wheel if you should stop for pedestrians - you generally fail the test. In politics you fail if you don't claim to listen to them.
When one does as you suggest, one suppresses the voice of those who suffer from religion's delusions.
We in the US also don't have a Constitutional right to freedom from war, oppression and fear. As evidenced by our disgraceful history and many wars in support of big business (Banana wars, anyone?).
Still, I have fun with some of the online wannabe bullies, who make threats with their "second amendment remedies", who then learn that this "liberal" (their definition of me) owns a full dozen firearms and is a veteran of over 27 years (27 years, 8 months before retiring) and has a Special Forces background of significance.
They decry it as BS until I give them a weapons inventory of what is in my firearms safes.
What they don't consider is my unwillingness to shoot anything other than a valid competition target or game, but I'll not disabuse them of their delusions on some matters.
Besides, I'd not soil my personal firearms on any treasonous rebel, I'd be recalled from retirement and issued a customized weapon. :)
Yes, politically and socially, it's getting *that* ugly here in the US.
Just imagine if that study linking aluminium to Alzheimer's was the only such study done, because others weren't allowed to "duplicate" the research.
Just imagine if that study linking vaccinations to Autism was the only such study done, because others weren't allowed to "duplicate" the research.
This guy is a numpty of the highest order. He has absolutely no clue, yet at the same time he has absolute confidence in his own opinions - a dangerous combination.
Surely - in some ludicrous world where this passes - the consequence would be the ban of any references to American scientific research from that point on, in any other scientific research?
"You paper presents some great ideas, and you seem to have done good work. However you referenced to Parker & Thompson 2014. Please review this problem with your paper and return once corrections have been made"
I presume the American scientists would find a way around this stuff, but the very process would tar any contributions they might try to make to science. I guess it could mean a flight of scientists from America - but that of course might be what the good Mr. Smith is counting on.
The problem with your idea is that the NSF funds a lot if research done in other countries. The NSF is the driving force behind a lot of global research, they're actually one of the 'good guys' that do happen to come from the States. Go to their website and look at how many projects the NSF funds (completely or in partnership) with other countries, even good ole England.
You are correct, they do offer funding for some degree of international research.
I would like to point out that I didn't - at least I don't think I did - come up with any ideas or preferred consequences. I was merely stating that if the US government were to scrap peer-review and pretty much the entire scientific method, then that research would have issues with believability. If the international funding done would surely also be subject to the same criteria for "science", and thus would likely suffer as well. So not just American research would be devalued, but any research affiliated with the NSF. I'll admit that my use of the word "ban" might have been too harsh, but I can't see research done for the US congress without peer review or a desire to retest to be valued highly by anyone in the science community.
I think we can all agree the proposal is rubbish (at least if it's intended to further science, and not Lamars own agenda)
Also - 2 thumbs down for making a pre-emptive grammar-nazi post?
"...a way to avoid unnecessary duplication in the field of science funding and as a way of allowing members of Congress to have an input into funding decisions."
The U.S. federal government is overspending and borrowing 1 trillion a year. So Is this called oversight? How dare those congressmen rascals!
This is a really bad idea because it politicizes research, its just as bad to let extreme left wing politicians do this as extreme right wing.
All that said, this and more is already in place. NSF funding requires that it benefit humankind (you must specify how), is good for the USA, is not being done or been done by someone else, and that the research can be continued after the research is complete (must specify how).
NSF grants are hard to get, but they are the big money grants, otherwise most researchers would not bother to write them.
And yes, I have written NSF grants...
As I recall, studies are funded to reproduce the results of other NSF studies.
A slight exception on the rule.
Removing overlap would end many, many fields funding though. For, any research in genetics would overlap in other research studies in genetics. Much of that is true in subatomic physics.
None of the three examples presented in this article have clear benefits to the USA. Which is a perfectly good reason to require precisely the sort of reporting being required by the proposal. NSF is already politicized, this is just an attempt to weed out some of the leftwing loons.
The majority of NSF grants are tiny, less than $200k over three years. The average grant is about $160k annual over about three years. There are a few dozen big projects that skew the average but we are not talking big bucks here. So no, most NSF grants are positively absolutely not big money grants.
Here's a nice PDF to show you the error of your ways & why you should know what you're talking about before you start making ridiculous statements: http://www.nsf.gov/about/budget/fy2013/pdf/04_fy2013.pdf
How quaint! People who think scientists are unaffected by politics or who provides the money.
Not only that, but I'm so pleased that none of the posters above appear to have any political views regarding who should get funding for science research.
Don't get me wrong, I'm dubious of this legislation and it appears open to intense abuse, but the driver may be that someone noticed 1001 research projects into the effects of internet porn on the male psyche. It might be important, or it might be a predictably, er, self-serving.
Personally, I'd be far more concerned about morality-free corporates with profit motives and capital reserves corrupting the political system, than I would be about individual politicians reflecting their constituents' views.
President Obama himself insinuated that vaccines may cause health problems -autism. This is so debunkedany times over it's becoming dangerous. In FL a young girl just died of Whooping Cough. "The science is settled on global warming." Oh wait, our models may have been wrong since there has been no warming in the last 15 years. This is a fact. Is this not politicizing in itself?
He's not just a Republican, he's the poster child for the "party of stupid"
There are signs that the Republicans are starting to believe that there might not be an inexhaustable supply of older wealthy white guys. One by one, they are beginning to understand that the conservative wing of the party isn't resonating with the majority of US voters.
But Lamar Smith stands proudly for the old ways.
The article quotes President Obama as saying: "...not just in the physical and life sciences, but also in fields like psychology and anthropology and economics and political science – all of which are sciences because scholars develop and test hypotheses and subject them to peer review...".
As a former molecular biologist, to me it's pretty clear that Obama's statement is typically honored only in the breach. Sure, it's become fashionable in recent years for social "scientists" to follow the economists' lead and quantify everything and even construct mathematical models to make their work look like science. Unfortunately, just as with the economists' work 20 or 30 years ago, almost always the models are mis-specified, or the work relies on subjective assumptions because the author doesn't really understand the math or statistics. Physics and the life sciences (and computer science for that matter) are successful because their models and maths can quickly and easily be checked with reality for results that all can see.
Sadly, this is typically not so in the social sciences, so severely erroneous explanations and theories go on unhindered for decades or even a century (for example, there are still people who claim Freud's theories to be based in fact, and that Freudian therapy works better than baseline supportive therapy!).
Given the (relatively) big bucks to be had from the NSF, it sounds like the social sciences decided to get in on the funding action and have NSF allocate them money as well. The Congressman's action seems as though it might be a very poorly thought out way to highlight some of the seemingly poor grants given out as a result.
"One of the things that I've tried to do over these last four years and will continue to do over the next four years," Obama said, "is to make sure that we are promoting the integrity of our scientific process; that not just in the physical and life sciences, but also in fields like psychology and anthropology and economics and political science – all of which are sciences because scholars develop and test hypotheses and subject them to peer review – but in all the sciences, we've got to make sure that we are supporting the idea that they're not subject to politics."
That's a pretty fucking broad definition of science. Obama seems to be pretty nearly as ignorant as Smith.
And the talk about "the integrity of our scientific progress" comes a bit late; that was lost decades ago.
I work in an organisation issuing government grants for science.
*Please* everyone - always remember that the government has taken your tax to put into research, and the political right wing do *not* want to do that unless it is spent efficiently and they have some control over how it is used. They have to account for it to the voters. They can't just take the lefty approach saying "Here you go scientists, here's tons of other people's cash. You decide how best to spend it".
The military are actually pretty good at this, because they are a long way ahead of commercial products in terms of basic science knowledge (materials, optics, computing, physics and what is called "human effectiveness"). They're very careful to direct the research toward the results they want, and avoid recovering the same ground.
And *please* do not think that the highest level of political players are all idiots. They clearly are not. No one wants to have to justify to the press why your staff spending half a million quid on a study of how shiny their pens are. It has to be part of a top-level strategy, not a free for all.
The problem is the science and technology committee in US politics.
Science has zero public interest, it also has very little commercial input (except for defense) - this means that a member of the science and technology committee cannot raise enough financial support from the public or corporations to fund their re-election campaign. Being on the committee is electoral death.
As a result the comittee is the dumping ground for lunatics that couldn't get on any other comittee and people with an inherited seat (generally from the bible belt) who don't need to raise money because they have captive voters.
As a scientist who has worked in the Eu and US I would naturally be against this.
However, the idea of a USA without any technology does have a certain comfort factor.
The idea that the next little adventure in overseas democracy will consist of Southern baptist preachers standing around a cruise missile (without an engine or warhead) commanding "the power of Christ compels you to fly" while on the other side a short fat guy in a great suit is photoshopping extra tanks - does have an appeal
When researchers leave the US, for pretty much anywhere else, the US loses its already tenuous lead in global reaserch and development, slips behind economically as a result, ends up as a third-world country and finally, when they can no longer repay their debts, a part of greater China, where, despite their many failings, they at least have the common sense to invest properly in scientific research.
Bye bye Uncle Sam, it was nice knowing you.
I don't know about anyone else, but I for one am getting sick and tired on the war on science being waged by the antiintellectual and religious zealots.
In the UK an advisory panel gave the government fact-based advice on drug policy. Instead of listening, they basically sacked the adviaory panel.
There's ever more pressure on schools to give "equal time to alternative theories on human origin" in science classes (ie force science teachers to fill children's heads with religious propaganda).
In a world where people have walked on another planet and where you can talk to someone in Australia as if they were in the next room this is just utterly increadible to me (in the original meaning of the word, there is no credibility to it).
Scientists have always relied on the idea that the facts are indesputible and will eventually win out against any political or religiously motivited stupidity. I don't think that's really the case. Science needs to start pushing back against this tide of dogma and stupidity.
Surely there should be concern that if the politicians get to decide what applications for research grants are funded, the poeple who actually decide will be the lobbyists and their masters, the companies which fund them and make major donations to election funds. The idea that the petrochemical industry, tobacco industry, and pharmaceutical industry should be able to influence or even veto research into the effects of their products is truly frightening.
Given the Republican anxiety over anything related to sex and religion, this is a blatant attempt to bring religious bias into science. We'll see "No Funds" stamped on genetic research, cosmology, stem cells, anything to do with sex and a long list of other heathen practices.
God help American science!
Republican...ignorant of how science works. Spot the redundancy.
These idiots won't be satisfied until they have built Iran in the homeland. What a shame, in retrospect, that the CSE wasn't allowed to go their own way and take their crazy-ass people with them. Darn you, Honest Abe!
It occurs to me that members of Congress get fat checks from the chemical and pharmaceutical industries, and that if the government stops funding independent research ("We're not cutting back on science, just on wasted taxpayer money") the only people who will be able to afford to do this stuff will be the mega corps, who may dictate the agenda and thus protect markets.
This must just be my paranoia gland misfiring owing to all the coffee I drank today. It couldn't happen in the real world.
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