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US Science Funding December 3, 2007

Posted by gordonwatts in politics.
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Earlier this year there were all sorts of congressional and white-house authored initiatives to increase science funding: American Competitiveness Initiative, the Innovation Agenda, and America COMPETES, for example. All of these are good news for science – not just my kind of science – but all the physical sciences. As I’ve mentioned before, science funding has been drifting of late, and inflation has been eating into our ability to do science for years.

Living in France for a year, however, means I don’t read the US papers as much as I used to. The problem is the current budget fight. Apparently the fight is getting big and loud enough many people are predicting a year long continuing resolution. That would be awful for us (science, in general). That is a dumb and crude tool to bring the budget under control – one born of only political expediency and the inability of people to find a middle ground.

I’ll make an esoteric analogy. At the Tevatron and the LHC particles do (will) collide at 2.7 million times a second and 40 million times a second. Unfortunately, we don’t have the cash to save the physics from each collision. In fact, we can only afford to keep 100 or 200 events per second. So what do we do? We use a trigger. This is an intelligent (large) bit of hardware that does its best to make a decision on-the-fly about which event to keep. It definitely does better than randomly allowing through 100 or 200 events every second.

Keeping the continuing resolution is like not using a trigger. You aren’t being intelligent about what you cut. These guys that make it to congress and the white house are smart (well, most of them, there always a few duds in a field that big). Please do the smart thing. And, of course, while you are doing the smart thing, I hope you will recognize the previous support for science and increase its funding as well.

Boy am I glad I’m not elected to office!

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