Kudos to the New York Times for noting the disconnect between Congress earmarking funds for questionable projects and, at the same time, cutting funding for the agency responsible for fueling much of the innovation that has driven our economy and improved our health and welfare.
From the article:
While cutting the budget of the [National] [S]cience [F]oundation, Congress found money for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame in Birmingham, the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville, bathhouses in Hot Springs, Ark., and hundreds of similar projects.
The science foundation helped finance research that led to Web browsers, like Internet Explorer and Netscape, and to search engines like Google. Its research has produced advances in fields from astronomy to zoology, including weather forecasting, nanotechnology, highway safety and climate change.
And the Times is right to contrast the increases with the cuts. With budget caps as tight as they are — discretionary spending increasing just 4 percent, with that increase in a select few agencies (DOD and NASA, most notably in R&D) — appropriations are truly a zero-sum game. Funding for new earmarks must come out of existing funding. In FY 2004, earmarks accounted for nearly $2 billion of the federal R&D budget. In FY 2005, it’s likely to be even higher (though I don’t yet have the numbers).
In any case, I’m pleased to see that the mainstream press is beginning to bang the drum about the dangers of underfunding fundamental research. Maybe it’ll have some positive effect on the FY 2006 budget process…(which has already begun!).
Here’s the full article.
Also here’s recent coverage of the NSF cuts.