Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Solving the Problem of Research Funding

I may have stumbled upon the solution to one of modern society's greatest dilemmas...acquiring reliable and substantial funding for scientific research.

What, you didn't know that was a problem? Well, it is! Just ask anyone who has ever tried to get a grant funded. The National Institutes of Health, the primary funding source for biomedical research in the US, has been getting less and less federal money to support science in recent years. The Budget Control Act, passed last year, is currently threatening to cut the NIH budget by an additional 11%. The National Science Foundation isn't doing much better, either. NSF had it's budget cut by $162 million last year. Research takes money, and not being able to get the funding you need is the most frustrating part of being a scientist.

But you know what the second most frustrating thing is about being a scientist? The rampant abuse of science and the scientific machinery. The misrepresentation of data. The cherry-picking. The sensationalized results. The manipulation of science to legitimize absurd claims and generate false controversies. The Andrew Wakefields and Ken Hams of the world.

So I got to thinking...what if we could turn these problems against each other? What if every time someone abused science for profit or in an official capacity, we could slap them with a huge fine and put the money right back into research?

Imagine it. We could create a new scientific organization and empower it to police how science is  represented in the media and used politically. It could be called 'Scientists Thwarting Fraudulence United'.

Is FOX News giving conspiracy theorists and climate change deniers equal footing with scientific experts again, legitimizing their absurd claims and creating a controversy where none exists?
STFU! Slap them with a fine!

Some rampant pro-life advocate manage to get their bias published, legitimizing their ignorance and generating more propoganda against women's rights?
Looks like a job for STFU!

Creationists and Intelligent Design proponents cherry-picking your work and using it to 'disprove' evolution or the geological age of the Earth, even when it contradicts your conclusions?
Who you gonna call? STFU!

Is your local government trying to legislate how scientists are allowed to measure reality because they don't like what they see?
Ohemgee, STFU!

You see where I'm going with this, I'm sure. It's a Xanatos Gambit. We would either generate enough revenue to dramatically improve science funding in the US, or people would have to actually inform themselves and accurately represent and interpret scientific findings. Experts would be valued. Quacks would cost more money than the ratings are worth. You couldn't get away with outright lying about what 'the science' says. It would be glorious.

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