Monday, November 11, 2013

Refusing to pay for the seed science is a bad idea.

It has been suggested that the economy experiences long waves of innovation and growth. Thus a scientific discovery may lead to a technological invention which in turn leads to the basis of a new technological system, which finally spawns a slew of further innovations;

Think of the development of packet switching, the creation of the Internet, the development of a global high speed communications network, leading to ecommerce, egovernment, and a huge number of apps.

The discovery of the structure of DNA has led to sequencing of the human genome and the genomes of other species. The health sector seems poised on the introduction of a large number of innovations to deal with genetic diseases and cancer.

Development in neuro- and congnitive-science seem at an earlier stage, but within a few decades if they are properly exploited may lead to huge social and economic advances.

So read this from Francis Collins, who heads the National Institutes of Health. Here are some quotes:
NIH appropriations doubled in real terms between 1998 and 2003 but leveled off after that and then started to decline. "We're getting pretty close to being undoubled," he says. The NIH now turns down six of every seven grant applications; in 1979, it accepted two of five....... 
He (Dr. Collins) was instructed to apply the 4.7% NIH cut for 2013 equally across its 27 institutes and research centers—in other words, cut the same amount over all scientific disciplines. The cuts meant, he says, that 640 projects that would have otherwise been funded were canceled over the last few months. "People say, 'Well you know, it's only 5%.' For those grantees, it was 100%."...... 
Whatever the cause, the consequences could have ramifications for decades. Dr. Collins warns that other countries are luring away U.S. scientific talent by offering better opportunities. Even more worrying: "My greatest concern—this is the thing that wakes me up at night—is that a whole generation of scientists are looking at this situation and getting increasingly discouraged and disheartened." 
Research can't be turned on and off like a faucet, he adds. Since knowledge is incremental and builds over time, medical innovations may be delayed or never happen at all: "We can all think of findings that seemed completely irrelevant but ultimately changed everything and led to people's lives being saved, but began in the strangest way."

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