Stimulus package: fund academic research.

This blog is not really meant to be political, but with all the talk of politics these days, and the terrible financial situation, I would like to make a (admittedly potentially self-serving) plug for having the new administration and anyone who cares about jump-starting the economy fund more academic research.  Why?

  • Research grants create jobs today for scientists, engineers and administrators
  • Research grants also have the side effect of training the next generation of scientists, engineers and administrators and giving them the skills for future innovation and success.  This includes particularly opportunities for undergraduates who might not enter academic research, but will then have an appreciation and knowledge of it as they enter other spheres of endeavor.
  • At some stochastic (random) frequency, research grants will yield discoveries or technologies that can really impact, even change, the world, create companies and create jobs.
  • Scientists are pretty good at squeezing relatively modest amounts of money into the maximum possible impact.   I don’t have data to prove this (I bet somebody does), but I can assure you that the numbers we see in other endeavors make our heads spin.   One reason is that peer-review can be brutal, and when best implemented, really provides very strong quality controls of the type that would reassure the taxpayer.

So research is a great investment:  jobs today and potential discoveries that will form the basis of our economy in the future.   I am not arguing only for NIH-type health-related research (mostly what I do), but also for NSF, Department of Energy, and any other agency that funds basic research.   Of course there needs to be other aspects of a stimulus package (I am not an economist), but a big part of it needs to be research, and I think that these dollars are particularly well spent in terms of the double benefit of jobs now + investment in the future of the US economy.   Towards that end, training grant support to help educate the next generation is also a very cost-effective investment.

This is as close to politics as this blog will get.

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3 comments

  1. Russ, what about the estimated $9.9B that will go into basic research as part of the economic stimulus package? This may or may not be more than a shot in the arm, but it shows that there is an awareness of this issue in DC.

  2. “Scientists are pretty good at squeezing relatively modest amounts of money into the maximum possible impact.”

    Tell me about it. Although to a bioinformatics professor, I suppose I look like I bring down enormous budgets.

    Anyhow, congrats on your Science Blogging Challenge win!

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