In yesterday’s Science News, the recent National Science Foundation budget cut amendments were brought to the forefront: House Takes Pot Shots at Research and Ocean Policy – ScienceInsider. Programs that suffered major cuts included climate change education, political science research, a monthly questionairre that contributes to the US census, and the National Ocean Policy, implemented by President Obama. Congress also cut funding for NASA but increased funding for NOAA (the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration).
Although Representative Flake (R-AZ) defends the amendments by claiming that they are trying to avoid redundancy, particularly in regards to cutting climate-change funds, his argument doesn’t seem to add up. Although there may be funding for climate change research in other parts of the NSF budget, funding multiple labs working on similar aspects of climate change can only be a good thing. Science is based on the idea of testing results multiple times and trying to solve a problem using different means in order to understand the problem better. Without sufficient funds for climate change research, it becomes very difficult to generate any real solutions to the problems already facing our country and our world. Additionally, cutting climate-change research seems to be more of a way for people who don’t want to believe that we’ve accelerated the natural rate of climate change to avoid the topic altogether. Also, the program that is proposed to be cut seems to be focused on climate-change education more than research, and that is an even more egregious decision, in my opinion. Preventing the knowledge about such important topics as climate change and evolution from reaching the public will lead to ignorance about the topic, and thus could lead to uninformed decisions with regards to education and voting, which would simply perpetuate the unfortunate cycle of ignorance that our country seems to be in.
I do understand why many politicians want to cut funding for research, since a lot of what researchers study seems fairly esoteric. However, what they don’t understand is that basic research is important for industry, the economy, education, and the competitiveness of the US as a country. Many of the greatest scientific discoveries came out of basic science research: the discovery of gravity, calculus, evolution, the structure of DNA, and more. Without basic science research, it would be very difficult for us to progress and gain more knowledge about the world around us. As Representative Chaka Fattah (D-PA) said, “However expensive an education may be, ignorance will probably cost our country more.”
Pharyngula has a good (although pretty biased) post discussing the cuts, if you’re interested!
It seems pretty obvious that I’m not a huge fan of these funding cuts (although the amendment still has to be approved and turned into a bill), but what do you think?