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The Billionaires Privatizing American Science

Soulskill posted about 7 months ago | from the easy-funding-in-four-words:-lab-rat-reality-show dept.

The Almighty Buck 279

An anonymous reader writes "Government-funded science is struggling in the United States. With the unstable economy over the past decade and the growing hostility to science in popular rhetoric, basic research money is getting hard to find. Part of the gap is being filled by billionaire philanthropists. Steven Edwards of the American Association for the Advancement of Science says, 'For better or worse, the practice of science in the 21st century is becoming shaped less by national priorities or by peer-review groups and more by the particular preferences of individuals with huge amounts of money.' Vast amounts of research are now driven by names like Bill Gates, Michael Bloomberg, David Koch, and Eric Schmidt. While this helps in some ways, it can hurt in others. 'Many of the patrons, they say, are ignoring basic research — the kind that investigates the riddles of nature and has produced centuries of breakthroughs, even whole industries — for a jumble of popular, feel-good fields like environmental studies and space exploration. ... Fundamentally at stake, the critics say, is the social contract that cultivates science for the common good.'"

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Good! (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46497669)

The free market knows best.

Re:Good! (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46497907)

You are either trolling or being sarcastic, but you actually bring up what is probably the core point here.

Many years ago, the rightmost elements decided that a strong government was not beneficial to the wealthiest citizens and in fact was a threat to them. Therefore, the goal became to reduce the size of government to the bare essentials - the smallest possible size that would protect them and their hoards - and then, control it.

At some point several decades ago, around the time or Reagan or maybe a little earlier, it was realized the way to do this was to do this was to reduce the amount of money government had to spend. There were two ways they could accomplish this. They could either reduce taxes, or increase the debt so that interest became a more and more substantial portion of the budget. It wasn't an either/or scenario, in fact the two were completely complimentary. They went down both roads.

For decades Republicans have been coupling tax cuts, preferentially for the wealthy to please the oligarch and corporate overlords, combined with prolific spending, preferentially on the military industrial complex (MIC).

This has gotten us to where we are today: an unpayable debt, a military budget that exceeds the rest of the developed world combined (with a large part of that budget going directly to defense contracting companies), and the budgets for most of the 'good' parts of government (which include scientific research and programs that keep people out of abject poverty) being slashed.

The place where the architects of this plan fucked up, and the one hope rational middle class and lower class people have to salvage the situation, is that the right also threw their lot in with the religious extremists in order to get people elected into office that otherwise would not. This has, today, given them an important faction of their bloc that continues to alienate minorities and people of more moderate viewpoints with absurd and offensive positions and statements, in some cases costing the Republicans elections. The chickens have come home to roost, so to speak.

This is the last chance to save our society from complete control by the monied elite and corporations, which apparently are now equivalent to very, very rich people in the eyes of the government (without many of the obligations). This division must be exploited, expanded, and communicated to the voters. Also, people must be allowed and urged to vote - Republican voter suppression efforts, gerrymandering, and electoral college changes are another, more obvious, flank of this battle that results in representation in Washington that does not represent the demographics of the population they are representing. 2014 may be a lost cause, but 2016 is not. I'll have to hold my nose while I do it, but if I have to, I'll put Hillary's name on the ballot in 2016.

Other tenets of the far right to hold the lower classes down where they belong include:
- Continuing to tie insurance to employers - leaving the workers completely dependent upon the corporations where they are employed. Sort of the equivalent of the old 'company store' where you could spend the scrip you received as pay.
- Cutting unemployment benefits - forcing people to stay in shitty jobs
- Cutting or dumbing down education - a less educated populace is easier to control. Think about how many of the Founding Fathers were educated and wealthy. We can't have that again, can we?
- Eliminating birth control - a child will force people out of higher education and into a paycheck to paycheck job to pay the bills, and as a bonus the child is likely to grow up less educated as well.
- A war on the scientifically accepted climate change theories. Any attempt to do anything about these will result in lower profits for the Overlords.

Re:Good! (2, Troll)

Runaway1956 (1322357) | about 7 months ago | (#46498013)

Interesting attempt to paint the "rightmost elements" of government as being responsible for our dysfunctional government.

I suggest, instead, that the primary problem with our government, and our economy, is the Federal Reserve. Like the World Bank and the various Central Banks around the world, it's interests supersede any national interests. Central banks, especially the Bank of England, are notorious for funding both sides in a war, knowing that the winner will control the assets necessary to repay to funds of both sides.

Left wing, right wing, it doesn't matter. The Fed funds them both, and both are very happy to impoverish the nation while trying to ensure they it rules the country.

While you're so happy highlighting all the evils of the right - you miss all the evils of the left. Welfare, for instance. Why do we have a welfare system that actually encourages generational dependence on the government? Why are welfare recipients using their benefits to purchase luxury goods? Why do 1 in 4 Americans qualify for welfare? Why do illegal aliens often get welfare benefits?

Neither party has any interest in enriching the common man, and both parties cooperate in impoverishing the population of the United States. Each has it's own interests, of course, but the fact is, there is a class war in the US right now. It's the "ruling class" versus all the rest of us.

Left or right, the ruling class fails to identify with the common man, and they have zero loyalty to the rapidly disappearing "middle class".

Re:Good! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46498097)

Original AC here. Points well taken. I don't disagree with anything you said.

Re:Good! (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46498351)

Welfare, for instance. Why do we have a welfare system that actually encourages generational dependence on the government? Why are welfare recipients using their benefits to purchase luxury goods? Why do 1 in 4 Americans qualify for welfare? Why do illegal aliens often get welfare benefits?

You do realize public welfare is 1/1000th the cost of corporate welfare right? Oil subsidies are the largest welfare payout granted by the Federal government, dwarfing the amount paid out to ALL human recipients. That answers many of your questions right there. And I hate to say it, but those "rightmost" elements are almost completely to blame for that situation.

Re:Good! (3, Insightful)

aminorex (141494) | about 7 months ago | (#46498173)

The OP's comments on the "social contract" refer to his desire for people with guns to take from my science projects and from the people I support, and give to his science projects, and the people he supports. Calling it "the social contract that cultivates science for the common good" is despicable propaganda. It's funny how
"the common good" always involves hiring thugs to threaten other people so that you get your way.

history ala comedy central (-1)

raymorris (2726007) | about 7 months ago | (#46498243)

Clearly you learned your American history from comedy central. For example, federal revenue INCREASED under Reagan. Debt? Republicans racking up debt? Almost half the federal debt has was incurred under one president - Barak Obama. He overspent by as much as all other presidents combined for the previous 200 years.

Your conclusions would be sound if the "facts" you've based them on were true, but they aren't. Your factual basis is pure fiction.

Re:history ala comedy central (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46498299)

The president doesn't spend money. Congress spends the money. Perhaps you should check your 'facts.'

Re:history ala comedy central (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46498415)

Sorry, but well reviewed facts disagree with you. It is common knowledge that Reagan exploded the economy, and set into motion the movements that we see today. Please turn off Fox News and join the rest of us in fighting back. Currently you seem to be suffering from Stockholm Syndrome.

Global Warming "Research" (-1, Flamebait)

pipingguy (566974) | about 7 months ago | (#46497675)

There, I said it. Lets all now have a rational, civilized discussion.

"The growing hostility to science in rhetoric". (1)

MRe_nl (306212) | about 7 months ago | (#46497707)

There, I said it. Lets all now have a rational, civilized discussion.

I've long felt that the only value of guys is to make gals look good.

Re:Global Warming "Research" (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46497709)

Bingo! You hit the nail on the head. With so much stolen taxpayer money going towards hoaxes like global warming and evolution, is it really any wonder why no one believes anything scientists say anymore? You cannot expect to make claims about reality thay are SO easily disproven by common sense and expect to get away with it. The USA has for too long been attacked and undermined by statists and liberals whos only wish is to hurt the economy and tie us ever closer to domination by the United Nations.

Re:Global Warming "Research" (1)

benjfowler (239527) | about 7 months ago | (#46497729)

Poe.

Re:Global Warming "Research" (5, Interesting)

smitty_one_each (243267) | about 7 months ago | (#46497735)

Son, we live in a world that has a permanent political class, and that PPC has to be guarded by votes. Who's gonna do it? You? You, AC? The PPC has a greater responsibility than you could possibly fathom. You weep for basic research, and you curse the skeptics. You have that luxury. You have the luxury of not knowing what I know. That basic research's death, while tragic, probably saved votes. And the PPC's existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, requires votes. You don't want the truth because deep down in places you don't talk about at parties, you want the PPC in charge, you need the PPC in charge. We use words like procedure, program, process. We use these words as the backbone of a life spent defending the PPC. You use them as a punchline. I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very "managed" freedom that I provide, and then questions the manner in which I provide it. I would rather you just said thank you, and went on your way, Otherwise, I suggest you bundle some campaign funds, and bring in some votes. Either way, I don't give a damn what research you think the public should support.

Re: Global Warming "Research" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46498065)

Stopped reading at "son". While it's fundamentally important to insult and deride people like you, I am too bored to do it myself. Have a lousy day and I hope everyone in your life is as dumb as a Democrat. Mmm. That felt good.

Re: Global Warming "Research" (2)

CohibaVancouver (864662) | about 7 months ago | (#46498133)

Stopped reading at "son".

*Whoosh*

Re:Global Warming "Research" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46498077)

ok, this is moderated Interesting, but it's a joke. it's a play on A Few Good Men...

https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/A_Few_Good_Men

Re:Global Warming "Research" (1)

rubycodez (864176) | about 7 months ago | (#46498279)

funny, of course the norm for humans isn't leaders elected by votes. although leadeers in many systems have and are in the pockets of what we'd today call large corporations

Science for Profit (2, Insightful)

ks*nut (985334) | about 7 months ago | (#46497695)

What could possibly go wrong? They'll "prove" that fracking doesn't pollute groundwater, nuclear plants and their waste products are safe and global warming is a myth. Oh yeah, the Earth is 6,000 years old and Intelligent Design is science. We, our children and our grandchildren will all profit from this!

Re:Science for Profit (2, Interesting)

inasity_rules (1110095) | about 7 months ago | (#46497721)

Nuclear plants can be safe if and only if you don't rely on designs from the 60s.... Look up Thorium cycle reactors. Their waste products, not so much, but modern ones produce less of the above.

But don't let facts get in the way of your rant. Carry on...

If and only if? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46497777)

I don't think "if and only if" means what you think it means.

I'd say nuclear plants can only be safe (necessary, not sufficient) if economic pressure isn't allowed to force their management to cut corners (cf. Tepco/Fukushima Daiichi).

The curse of securing against extremely rare events is that you don't "see" the results in day-to-day usage.

Re:If and only if? (2)

inasity_rules (1110095) | about 7 months ago | (#46497825)

Call it a minimum requirement. If nuclear plants run on 1960s tech they will not be safe. Fukushima complied with the safety requirements of the day.

Re:If and only if? (1)

Immerman (2627577) | about 7 months ago | (#46498221)

Actually, didn't come out that Fukushima actually cut a lot of corners over the years, so that by the time of the disaster they didn't even fully comply with the 1960's era safety regulations?

More and more I think the only way a nuclear plant can realistically escape from the creeping systemic rot of corner-cutting is to remove all the critical components from the reach of the operators - systems like sealed modular reactors that essentially act like a 5-20 year nuclear heat battery which can then be plugged into a power generating station until depleted, and then the whole system shipped back to the factory for retrofit and refueling. Hyperion power (or whatever they changed their name to) was actually claiming they could build such reactors for roughly the same price per thermal watt-hour as an equivalent amount of coal. Combined with financing so that you don't have to pay for 5-20 years of power up front that seems an extremely appealing option.

The factory has a far greater incentive to do proper maintenance because their income stream relies not on selling power to people who aren't paying attention, but on many different power companies having faith in and continuing to purchase their reactors. And the power plant operators are left maintaining basically the same tech as a coal-fired plant, with the addition of battery vaults whose purpose is primarily to keep disasters and saboteurs away from the batteries. It also makes upgrading to new tech much more cost effective - you (potentially) can simply start purchasing new-design modular reactors instead of refit ones when they need to be replaced. Meanwhile there will be no shortage of customers willing to continue purchasing refurbished old-style reactors for less affluent regions, but the reactor makers still have incentive to retire individual reactors completely before safety becomes an issue - because even a faulty old reactor will call into question the safety of their new ones.

Re:Science for Profit (1)

Opportunist (166417) | about 7 months ago | (#46497841)

The problem remains that you have to put that waste somewhere. It's one of the biggest NIMBY problems of our times, everyone wants the "cheap" electricity (it's not that cheap once you factor in risk and waste deposit, but who cares about problems that might be or problems that only affect us in 30 years, i.e. long after I left office?) but nobody wants to deal with it. Thorium reactors have a completely different problem (like, say, that you probably do NOT want certain states to run them, considering that they invariably breed some material that you certainly don't want some nutjobs like li'l Kim get their hands on).

Plus, we lack the risk assessment for MSRs, at least I'm not aware of any long term studies concerning them.

Re:Science for Profit (1)

Applehu Akbar (2968043) | about 7 months ago | (#46497873)

The proper long-term destiny of nuclear waste is to be recycled into new fuel. But so long as Cold War warheads are so cheap and while we wait for lower-cost recycling methods, we have an ideal place to store it. We just have to get rid of one item of low-grade, long-term biological waste first: Harry Reid.

Re:Science for Profit (1)

inasity_rules (1110095) | about 7 months ago | (#46497899)

As I understood it, the idea was to process fuel from older reactors into something with a lower half life. Fact is, we have a lot of waste to deal with and the lower the half life the better.

In any case I think freezing R&D on fission because some 30+ year old reactors had fairly well contained accidents might be a bad idea. Just because the older reactors or even current ones aren't as foolproof as we'd like doesn't mean they can't be.

Re:Science for Profit (1)

Opportunist (166417) | about 7 months ago | (#46497977)

I'm certainly no nuclear physicist, but doesn't lower half life also mean faster decay and more radiation?

Re:Science for Profit (1)

inasity_rules (1110095) | about 7 months ago | (#46497997)

From what I recall of my physics, no, but I will listen to the experts on that - I may recall wrong. I seem to recall that it depends on the material. The point being that it might be easier to contain even deadly radiation for 100 years than moderate radiation for 10 000 years. Ever try designing a container to last 10 or 100 thousand years?

Well contained? (1)

Immerman (2627577) | about 7 months ago | (#46498315)

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I was under the impression that at least a couple of Fukushima reactors are a *long* way away from being well contained,with the expectation being that they will continue spewing contaminated material into the environment for years, possibly decades, before they can actually be decommissioned.

I agree that freezing R&D into fission is probably the wrong reaction, but a bigger issue would seem to me to be changing the economic realities that make corner-cutting so lucrative and dangerous. One possible option is sealed modular reactors where maintenance is performed periodically during refueling and refurbishing by a company whose only income stream is from power-plant operators continuing to trust the safety of their fission "batteries". It also makes oversight easier since you only have a few construction/refurbishing plants maintaining the most critical components, instead of thousands of separate reactors scattered around the world.

Re: Science for Profit (4, Insightful)

reedk (43097) | about 7 months ago | (#46497799)

So we can't trust private citizens to guide science, but should have complete faith in appointed government beueaucrats and regulators?

Re:Science for Profit (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46497909)

Let's see. Defunding public initiatives that might be inconvenient to business interests? Check. Private sponsorship of favored causes? Check. Ruined economy for most actual humans? Check. Government doing the bidding of the wealthy at the expense of those it's supposed to represent? Check. Militarized police as an internal occupation army intended to keep regular citizens in their places? Double check.

I'd say the re-establishment of feudalism is quite well on its way. Now they just need to remove that pesky clause in the Constitution that says our government can't grant titles of nobility and they're about done. If they even care about that, or the Constitution in general anymore. One thing the feudalists knew that some people who founded this country were kind of too dumb to figure out right away (but they've learned): paying rock bottom wages to people who can't afford to even try to better their condition in life is ultimately much cheaper than actual slavery. It might under some circumstances even be cheaper than automation. That is the inevitable result of free market economics. Without checks and balances it is the only possible outcome. Why do you think the conservative news and talk machine constantly tries to drum "free market" into everybody's brains? They know exactly what they're doing.

Re:Science for Profit (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46497979)

The article and summary emphasize individuals who are funding scientific research, emphasizing the "philanthropic" model, including some of the problem with it. Most of the comments here take that bait and read this as "rich guys (mostly) funding science -- is this evil?". In fact, private corporations have funded fundamental and applied scientific work in the US and abroad for many decades. Bell Labs, IBM, General Electric, and so on. Was the transistor an important scientific discovery? The Nobel committee seemed to think so, and its change to society undoubtedly profound. Was it funded publicly? No. In fact, not only was it funded by a private corporation, the scientists were not independent in the least. They were not university researchers with funding from the private corporation -- they were employees. The scientists jobs depended on preserving and maintaining dominance of a private monopoly on telephone service. Was the transistor an evil plot by a private corporation? Yeah, it kind of was, actually.

Legally and in practice of funding research, the difference between corporations and individuals is very small. Many corporations have closed their private labs and fund chairs at universities instead. This is basically cheaper for them..... wait, I mean "more efficient" in the economic sense. It also allows for better decoupling of paycheck and results. Scientists may get a grant from Monsanto or the Keck foundation or Microsoft or whoever, and others may question whether the research is biased, but the scientists is probably not solely dependent on that source of funding.

FWIW, government funded research has implied biases too. The researchers at national labs and those funded by NSF, DOE, NIH, and NASA are definitely not given open-ended grants without continual scrutiny of topics being worked on and results.

In summary, this is neither that new or surprising. Government funding for science (especially at NIH) is way down. The huge income inequality in the US means there are many more obscenely rich people, most of them well-educated and many with technical backgrounds. As a research scientist, I'm happy to see them "giving back", at least partly. It's only natural that they would choose areas they are interested. I don't see much reason to expect results more biased or fraudulent than other scientific work. Of course, the better solution would be for the rest of the country to take (ie, tax) the money from the rich people and fund science collectively.
 

What they're really afraid of, I think... (5, Insightful)

MikeRT (947531) | about 7 months ago | (#46497699)

Billionaires tend to be far more critical of what their money finances than government granting authorities. Consider all of the scandals involving made up data. A billionaire who funded that might get it checked out before allowing it to be published. A government agency won't. A billionaire who discovers shenanigans certainly won't fund that researcher again, a government agency probably will.

Now I know a lot of that is driven by "publish or perish" but it's pretty obvious that private donors are more likely to scrutinize than public sector donors. If that weren't the case, the various public funding agencies would be bringing the fraudulent researchers up on criminal charges for defrauding the tax payer.

But in reality, this should be welcomed. This is how science got funded during its first centuries as a discipline when many of the giants of science did their work. Billionaires have the luxury of blowing their money however they see fit. All a researcher who thinks a field might prove promising has to do is make a case to the man with the money. There's no public interest involved, just his personal interest. That means no red tape, no government oversight, etc.

Don't be too sure of yourself. (5, Insightful)

PeterM from Berkeley (15510) | about 7 months ago | (#46497739)

What if the Billionaire WANTS a certain answer and lets the scientist know it, so that the "data" can be published for a huge return on investment for the billionaire? Tobacco industry did this.

Or maybe billionaire just has an answer he emotionally wants to hear and funds science to get that instead of sensible science? If Jenny McCarthy had billions what sort of research d'you think she might fund?

Or what if billionaire wants research on life extending treatments for him and him alone and screw publishing?

I don't see any compelling reason billionare science would be any better than publicly funded science. I'd rather everyone own the results, too, than a billionaire.

I mean, one thing a billionare is VERY good at is hoarding good things (money) for themselves AREN'T THEY.

--PeterM

Re:Don't be too sure of yourself. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46497773)

Making and saving money isn't quite the same thing as keeping the results of research secret.

Also, publicly funded science is far from perfect in this area itself, thanks to copyright law and patent law.

Re:Don't be too sure of yourself. (4, Interesting)

Bengie (1121981) | about 7 months ago | (#46497931)

I've only experienced two types of public research
1) Given away for free, no patents being used to hinder
2) Patent and charge money, but that money goes back into the educational system that created them and paid for over 90% of my state uni tuition. Out of State $30k/sem, in-state $2k/sem.

For over 30 years, my state unis have been very cheap for in-state citizens because of patents. Our state owns a lot of stem cell, pharma, bio-tech, and integrated circuit patents. Most of the money made from those patents get pumped back into the higher educational system and dramatically lower the price. We're also highly coveted because of high quality graduates. We've got freshmen getting contacted via phone by the likes of Intel, AMD, Microsoft, and Google, asking them what they plan on doing after they graduate.

We also have a large amount of research that is state funded or alumni funded that gets released for free for the greater good of the general public.

Re:Don't be too sure of yourself. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46498125)

Why didn't you state what state you're talking about? Which state?

Re:Don't be too sure of yourself. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46497791)

Or what if billionaire wants research on life extending treatments for him and him alone and screw publishing?

You think it's better to simply take his billions at the point of a gun to fund the same research and make the results available to everyone?

Re:Don't be too sure of yourself. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46497945)

At least if a billionaire is researching something for only him to use, it is not using tax payer money. That is much better then politicians giving millions of tax payer money to research pointless things or basically pay for false results (climate change). The biggest problem is that nothing is verified by a second team of scientists before being released on the internet. There has been so many false or wrong studies that I can't believe any of them anymore. Or simply stupid studies.

Re:Don't be too sure of yourself. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46498001)

What if the Billionaire WANTS a certain answer and lets the scientist know it,

Oh you mean kind of like what we have now where the gov't pours money into global warming supporters and doesn't bother supporting the opposing view in order to get an accurate answer?

Or about stem cell research, or weapons and space programs, education, social programs, etc, etc, etc

Then there is the flip side of public funding stupidity: If I have a billion dollars then I have every right to fund whether or not rattle snakes will attack robot squirrels and maybe make a few bucks back on YouTube, but when that same money is handed out by bureaucrats the rest of us have no choice (or be put in jail) to pay for such idiocy.

Re:Don't be too sure of yourself. (1)

rubycodez (864176) | about 7 months ago | (#46498283)

IPCC

Re:Don't be too sure of yourself. (1)

Flammon (4726) | about 7 months ago | (#46498293)

It's their (billionaire's) money. They can do whatever they want with it as long as they don't hurt anyone else. Government money though is stolen money. Stealing people's money to fund a pet science project is immoral and I don't support it.

Re:Don't be too sure of yourself. (2)

flyingsquid (813711) | about 7 months ago | (#46498371)

If you don't believe that the government should support research and technology, why do you still use the internet and the web- which were both developed with public funding by DARPA and CERN, respectively? This is the classic hypocrisy of libertarians- when it comes time to pay they claim it's a form of theft, but they have no problem with using all the public services- roads, universities, the internet- that have been paid for with my tax dollars. They're happy to take government services, they just don't want to pay for them. If their house catches on fire, they're going to call 911 just like everyone else.

Re: What they're really afraid of, I think... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46497751)

You clearly don't understand the review process to get government funding or to publish government funded research. The idea that privately funded research is better than the current system is ludicrous.

Billionaire to scientist. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46497827)

A billionaire who funded that might get it checked out before allowing it to be published.

Excuse me Docotr, but your results shows my business in a bad light. I am sure when you re-examine that data, the results will be much more conducive to my business.

The cigarette industry sure as hell did that.

The petroleum and gas industry sure as hell does that.

Every industry that sponsors their own research never allows negative results to be published.

AND there have been quite a bit of publication bias in the pharmaceutical industry (actually the whole of medical). That's why their studies of their drugs show them to be more effective than they really are - like many of the newer anti-depressants.

Re:Billionaire to scientist. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46498313)

Nuclear reasearch from Japan suggests a small amount is GOOD.

Meanwhile, the LT model continues to face real challenges at low doses.

Re:What they're really afraid of, I think... (5, Insightful)

metlin (258108) | about 7 months ago | (#46497943)

You're an idiot. There was a recent article on how Columbia fired two of its eminent public intellectuals [thenation.com] . Why? For not bringing in enough grant money. Not because they didn't publish, or not because they weren't any good. No, because they weren't politically savvy enough to bring in grant money.

Both Vance and Hopper had 30 and 26 years at Columbia respectively, and highly respected in their fields. They were let go because the expectation was that they bring in ~80% of their income from outside grants. Not doing research, not publishing, but bringing in *money*. No wonder people like Grigori Perelman hate the current academia.

You aren't doing science then, you are rewarding those that can *market* their subjects well.

But in reality, this should be welcomed.

Really? If you'd read the piece, you will notice that subjects with seemingly little application are the ones that get little to not attention. Because they are neither utilitarian nor do they make them feel good.

Take the Fourier transform for instance -- once upon a time, it would have been considered pure math, but today, DSP wouldn't exist without it. To focus only on those that *we* think are utilitarian can be extremely myopic, not to mention downright arrogant.

This is how science got funded during its first centuries as a discipline when many of the giants of science did their work.

That is downright silly. Just because something was done a certain way is not an argument for not using a better way. Using patrons has always been problematic, because patrons always favored things that they liked, with a vested interest.

If we still did things the way they were done, democracy wouldn't exist. As a concept, it is downright radical and new - giving power to the people?! Imagine that!

Similarly, the idea that people would fund science for the common good is just as radical, and going back to having patrons is pushing us back to the dark ages. We should be moving forward, not backward.

Re:What they're really afraid of, I think... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46498041)

The assumption is that governments would be more altruistic than private parties. It just astounds me how a group of people as ostensibly smart & educated (many of them scientists themselves) as Slashdotters can believe that.

Re:What they're really afraid of, I think... (1)

metlin (258108) | about 7 months ago | (#46498129)

You are ascribing power to governments, rather than the people -- therein lies your fallacy.

The idea is that *people* are more powerful and altruistic than individuals or institutions. A government is nothing more than an instrument -- an institution that supposedly represents the people.

If a government is contrary to its people's values, then they should fix the government, not discard it altogether in favor of private enterprise.

Re:What they're really afraid of, I think... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46497957)

You are just making shit up. I am guessing you are not a billionaire, nor have you engaged in the process of reviewing proposals for government funding of science. The process of peer review is significantly more rigorous for the NIH, for example, than it is for philanthropic organizations or "billionaires".

Re:What they're really afraid of, I think... (2)

roman_mir (125474) | about 7 months ago | (#46498169)

"What they are really afraid of" ....

I just read some of the comments on TFA, at this point 219 comments, I read the top 10. Read them. The only thing you will find there will be hate, hate and more hate. Oh, and jealousy, hate, more hate and jealousy, nothing else.

"tax them", "steal from them", "global warming", "infrastructure", "would have been better if they never had that money", etc.etc.etc.

The commenters are CERTAIN that these guys stole the money that they have, not MADE it, but stole it. They probably believe those guys stole it from them personally, no less. OMFG, I wish I could collect these types of people specifically onto one continent, while the rest could live on another continent and we would have a WALL between us, a wall so tall, they would never have to see the other side again. The problem is, the people on the other side would be coming up with methods to IMPROVE lives of the people on that other continent to try and make more money by GIVING them the fruits of their labour in exchange for something... a promise, I guess, a promise of a fair exchange?

There can be no fair exchange with those people, they produce nothing, they think money is some sort of a limited resource and we are stuck fighting for that one pile, one limited resource. They don't even understand how stupid that is in the article, that explains that people who fund research CREATE NEW STUFF THAT NEVER EXISTED BEFORE. That's how they made their money, that's how they view the world - by changing it and by creating what didn't exist before. Money is MADE, it's not taken from a constant pool. There is no constant pool of money.

When Rockefeller saved the whales by single-handedly growing the kerosene industry into one that could light up the night for everybody pretty much, did he steal something from somebody who already had it? NO. He created the new wealth and others wanted that product, and eventually, as he lowered costs of kerosene over 40 years so much, that others couldn't compete with him, what did they do? Just like these folks, leaving those comments, what did they do?

They got with the government and destroyed an extremely efficient company, because they couldn't compete with it. The prices for kerosene never went down again since that moment in time.

It is very hard to like people, and there is no reason to like people that are that selfish, ignorant, stupid, jealous, thieving, cunning bastards. Very hard to like them indeed and we should not fall for that. Just because they cannot do it themselves does not mean anybody owes anything to them, just because they are incapable of it themselves.

Yet even they get helped by the free market capitalism that allows some people to elevate themselves from the MUD and the slime of the rest and never to stop thinking in terms of creating.

Re:What they're really afraid of, I think... (3, Insightful)

StormReaver (59959) | about 7 months ago | (#46498207)

Billionaires tend to be far more critical of what their money finances than government granting authorities.

True, but the outcome is not usually what you are implying. Billionaires tend to put their money where there is the most to gain for themselves, while governments have a stronger motivation to fund important fundamental discoveries that do not provide an immediate return on investment.

Consider all of the scandals involving made up data.

Both privately and publicly funded entities do this. At least publicly funded entities can be cross-checked. Privately funded entities are under no pressure to disclose all their sources, and will be even less so as private funding of science becomes more socially acceptable.

A billionaire who discovers shenanigans certainly won't fund that researcher again, a government agency probably will.

To a billionaire, "shenanigans" means that the "researcher" didn't arrive at the results the billionaire paid for. So yes, the billionaire will not fund that researcher again.

...it's pretty obvious that private donors are more likely to scrutinize than public sector donors.

Yes, but only to make sure that the private donors' political biases take precedence over the truth.

Billionaires have the luxury of blowing their money however they see fit.

And they will only "blow" their money on endeavors that make them more money. How do you think they became billionaires to begin with?

This is how science got funded during its first centuries as a discipline when many of the giants of science did their work.

Lots and lots and lots of good science had to fight and uphill battle against the political desires of private patrons back then, which held back scientific progress rather than promoted it.

No, private funding of the sciences was, is, and will be a disaster.

Science is sick (1, Troll)

vrhino (2987119) | about 7 months ago | (#46497711)

There is a lot of trouble with science. Scientists cutting corners and cheating. Retracting papers from journals is happening more frequently than ever before. Many papers are not reproducible and important descriptions of procedures or original data sets are never published. Affording all the necessary papers is difficult. Referees do not reject papers that have serious defects. Scientists pay to have themselves added as authors but make no contribution to the projects.

Re:Science is sick (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46497883)

Here is an example of "the growing hostility to science in popular rhetoric". I am curious how the conclusion that "science is sick" was reached. Was it analytical or emotional?

Re:Science is sick (1)

gtall (79522) | about 7 months ago | (#46497923)

Bullshit. The science you are referring to is mostly medical science. Try cutting corners in physics or chemistry. Mathematics isn't technically a science but if you tried it there too, you'd get your ass handed to you. Logic is similar.

So stop cherry picking to support your beliefs...much like the science you claim not to like.

Lots of government funding is wasted (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46497715)

I work at a major research university. Much of the government funded research is a complete waste of money.

Re:Lots of government funding is wasted (5, Insightful)

KingOfBLASH (620432) | about 7 months ago | (#46497951)

The problem is we don't actually know what is and isn't a waste.

A lot of very useful science started out as just some researchers pie in the sky distraction. For instance, much of the work in number theory and pure mathematics of the past few hundred years had no clear use. In Hilberts autobiography, "Apology of a Mathematician" he apologized for spending his life playing with puzzles that he thought were fun.

However, actually number theory (especially now that we have computers) actually turned out to be QUITE useful.

The problem is you don't know what will or won't be useful ex-ante. There are certainly benefits to saying "we should find a cure for _____" However, perhaps some microbiologist who just wanted to see what he could grow if he tried culturing a geyser will discover something revolutionary. (Really happened. Modern microbiology relies on replicating DNA which uses a mechanism found in a bacteria that figured out how to live in a geyser).

Really we need a mix. If a billionaire likes the idea of going into space, we should welcome him to try. However, we should still support pure research because of the probably effects on society.

Re:Lots of government funding is wasted (2)

russotto (537200) | about 7 months ago | (#46498245)

_A Mathematician's Apology_ was by G.H. Hardy, not Hilbert.

Mt. Gox (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46497719)

The creator of Bitcoin has seemed to benefit from American Science. Suze Orman (cnbc.com) would contend that most Americans aren't Billionaires or Trillionaires, per-se, but some may partially disagree. See: tse.co.jp

Social Security is Going to Gobble Everything (2, Informative)

glennrrr (592457) | about 7 months ago | (#46497753)

Given the many trillions of dollars committed to Social Security / Medicare, and the amazing ability of baby boomers to get their way politically, it seems pretty obvious that everything that isn't Social Security, Medicare better be prepared to go private.

Re:Social Security is Going to Gobble Everything (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46497787)

sucks for those of us currently 30-50, but just wait 40 years.

A lot of these demographic problems will be solved.

Re:Social Security is Going to Gobble Everything (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46497987)

This is so true that truer words were never spoken. After 50 years you will need to rebuild the civilization from Africans and Asians.

Return to very old models? (3, Interesting)

Matt_Bennett (79107) | about 7 months ago | (#46497767)

This seems to be a return to some very old models of research- think Aristotle, Leonardo Da Vinci, where research was not government supported, but either the hobby of the very rich, or the very rich paying someone. I suppose that it could be considered as government supported, as the very rich *were* the government. The institutional government supporting research appears to be a 19th or 20th century change, and that is dominated by military motives.

The super rich have more money than they could possibly spend- why not let them spend that money in the way that they want? Be it driven by guilt or by the desire to make more money... I'd much rather them spend the money on science as opposed to spending their money on becoming part of the government (think Mitt Romney and Michael Bloomberg in the US and Silvio Berlusconi in Italy).

Re: Return to very old models? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46497815)

Not only is it a return to old models, but the return started a long time ago. Michael Crichton mentioned that companies were taking over research funding in the foreword to Jurassic Park. It was insightful in 1990. It's not as insightful 24 years later.

Re: Return to very old models? (1)

James Buchanan (3571549) | about 7 months ago | (#46498089)

Shucks, I believe that you had better understand the social,and political realities of back then,of your comment. The doges,dukes and dauphenes were the millionaires, and the governments of the day. They funded local arts of the day. If the earl of pie wanted a warfare device, better armour, setter knifes or a portrait they went to a craftsman of a guild, and were refered to one. Those craftsmen in return on learning a new way, returned the teachings to the guild master and thus science was started. After they broke the guild structure by religious intolerance, the doges still wanted pretties, thus independent sciences were established thru higher religious training schools. Which thru reformation became secularized and non denominational. Still the dauphiness wanted open thought now, and monies to support death marches. They supported the new knights of the sea,pirates. Who became the robber barons of land. Now they demand the elimination of the guilds,he new religion of green,money an planet demand a reduction of education, services,and the promises of future glory are being downsized to yesterday years minimums. Did they kill their golden goose by killing their goose?

Fundamental Research (2)

Roger W Moore (538166) | about 7 months ago | (#46498153)

This seems to be a return to some very old models of research

Not entirely. Aristotle, Da Vinci etc were given leave to "explore". They were funded to do curiosity driven research as well as the "build a better widget" kind. Today's billionaires, very like governments, are focussed on getting better widgets rather than improving mankind's knowledge. The problem is that it can take 50-100 years before our new fundamental knowledge can be applied so by the time that they all wake up to find that applied science has slowed to a crawl it will be a long time before the damage can be undone.

Should have strong private and public funding ... (2)

MacTO (1161105) | about 7 months ago | (#46497769)

Private funding is great in many areas. This is particularly true of science that addresses problems that society needs to solve (e.g. medicine) or that captures people's imaginations (e.g. astronomy).

However, there is a lot of science that needs to be done that doesn't fit into either category. That is where governments need to step in.

Re:Should have strong private and public funding . (1)

NapalmV (1934294) | about 7 months ago | (#46498027)

Private funding is great in many areas. This is particularly true of science that addresses problems that society needs to solve (e.g. medicine) or that captures people's imaginations (e.g. astronomy).

I'll leave it to you as an exercise to compare the amounts of private funding that went to astronomy vs. "economics" (paid-for publications and think-tanks included). Why would that have happened?

Re:Should have strong private and public funding . (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46498191)

Private funding paid for the operations that let me have mobility through much of my life. If you watch 'Peter Pan' you will see how private individuals took the actions and made the gifts that helped out others, including science, medicine and art. Too much today for political reasons the media like to gloss over those donations by private individuals.

Re:Should have strong private and public funding . (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46498213)

Private funding in medicine sucks. If the new drug you're testings turns out to not work well or produces some really bad side effects you can't sell it and all the money seems lost (you've learned something, but you can't sell or quantify that). So there's a lot of pressure to bury the facts and get your drugs to market as long as we'll make a profit before the lawsuits come in.

We shouldn't have privately funded medical research.

Social models are cyclical (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46497785)

Only a few hundred years ago the patrons of science were kings.

Govt funding is aberration (3, Insightful)

Lawrence_Bird (67278) | about 7 months ago | (#46497837)

It really was not until the Manhattan project and post WWII cold war that government became the patron of scientists. Was Diract writing grant requests? Bohr? Heisenberg? Shockley (et al)?

This is a really encouraging sign and should be looked upon favorably even if it is not prefect. Philanthropists have been on the sidelines for a long time now and it will be a learning process for all involved on how to best utilize funding.

Re:Govt funding is aberration (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46497921)

Go back and look at when science really started to be productive and an engine for development. It coincides very nicely with the involvement of the gov't with funding. I do not think this is a coincidence. The problem with losing gov't funding is that it enables a broader base of exploration and discovery. A switch to philanthropy based funding will narrow focus and diminish potential returns. It's the nature of science - we don't know what we don't know yet.

Re:Govt funding is aberration (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46498081)

Are you being facetious or sarcastic? Am I misunderstanding you? "Private" science and technology has made vast leaps and bounds throughout history. The steam engine, anthrax vaccine, electric motor, radio, etc., were all developed privately; just to name a bare handful. "Not productive?"

Particle Physics (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46498047)

Bohr? Heisenberg?

Theorists who did thought experiments. Now, how about a particle physicist that needs a multibillion dollar collider that may discover something that has absolutely no economic value - at least in the near term? Even some cash hording corp wouldn't' fund such a thing.

Shockley

Beneficiary of a long gone monopoly that funded basic research with the hopes that one day it could be profitable.

Today, science is so expensive and specialized, there are very few fields that can be done by an individual. The mathematical "sciences" are probably the only field that can be done by the individual.

Business is way too short sighted to fund basic research and basic research is too expensive for the individual.

Re:Govt funding is aberration (1)

rubycodez (864176) | about 7 months ago | (#46498321)

nonsense, governments have been funding science for at least three thousand years

IT'S THE KOCH BROTHERS' FAULT!!! (0)

MyDirtIsRed (2882529) | about 7 months ago | (#46497843)

"the growing hostility to science in popular rhetoric"

Seriously?

Cue the angry response to my comment from some GRA in an environmental science department at an institution of high esteem, who has never held a job outside of the academe, who once read an article on MoJo that illustrated how the Koch brothers are funneling $10 trillion a week into a subliminal messaging system that broadcasts anti-"climate change" propaganda via episodes of 'Duck Dynasty', and who thus claims that their research is subject to 'growing hostility'.

Centuries of government funded basic research? (3, Informative)

dabridgham (814799) | about 7 months ago | (#46497851)

I don't think so. Basic scientific research has been privately funded for most of those centuries. Government funding is a relatively recent change.

The problem with government-funded research (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46497917)

The problem with government funded, "public" research is that it is not "public," ever. Access to government-funded research papers by Joe Q. Public is often prohibitively expensive, if possible at all.

Private investment is a good thing (1)

Applehu Akbar (2968043) | about 7 months ago | (#46497919)

Human space exploration is an ideal field for private research. There is now a body of billionaires with a geeky interest in what is out there. When you consider that any new initiative, such as a lunar base or a Mars expedition, will require assuming great personal risk, there is no Western government that would run the political risk of subjecting astronauts to a high probability of death far from Earth. Remember those long periods of space shutdown after each Shuttle accident?

Another rich field is energy research. If LFTR or thorium reactors are ever going to get built, it will be by billionaires working at offshore sites not reachable by protesters.

Re:Private investment is a good thing (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46498331)

Better reactors will be built by the military to further their energy weapons or to reduce our reliance on other country's assets. The payoffs and risks are too high for them to leave it in the uncooperative hands of some random company.

The US can't do space exploration because those are all long term projects. Just like TV execs screw around with show times when they gain the job, each new government wants to make it's mark and thus space projects change with each election.

Re:Private investment is a good thing (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46498339)

Protestors have drones now too.

Think again.

How much is enough? (4, Informative)

jamesl (106902) | about 7 months ago | (#46497927)

The poster asserts, "Government-funded science is struggling in the United States."

The Federal Government spends more than $130 billion on research and development (R&D) each year, conducted primarily at universities and Federal laboratories.
http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog... [whitehouse.gov]

How much should the taxpayers spend on research? Show your work.

Re:How much is enough? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46498267)

50k/yr * 8 people per lab * 40 labs per college * six colleges per university * 1800 universities.

My back of envelope calculation suggests about 170B for the research.

  Plus overhead ( administrative positions, facilities, water, lights, waste handling)

Knowing the overhead rates are about 50%-100%, that brings the amount to roughly 280B.

Re:How much is enough? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46498273)

Thats just salary.

Add in equipment, IT, and reagents, and the amount goes up considerably.

We know where this is gonna lead. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46497935)

"...sadly the greatest minds and resources where focused on conquering hair loss and prolonging erections."

OP Is an Idiot (0)

bistromath007 (1253428) | about 7 months ago | (#46497961)

"Part of the gap is being filled by billionaire philanthropists."

"Vast amounts of research are now driven by names like Bill Gates, Michael Bloomberg, David Koch, and Eric Schmidt."

It's pretty great how this dude thinks that a couple of arch-politico capitalist gods paying for bogus research to protect their financial interests qualify as "philanthropists."

Those darn feel-good fields... (1)

N3tRunner (164483) | about 7 months ago | (#46497999)

Yes, because "feel-good" fields like space exploration have never produced anything for the common good.

I support (0)

hanzoach (633415) | about 7 months ago | (#46498005)

Tony Stark!

This has been going on longer than a decade (1)

jmd (14060) | about 7 months ago | (#46498023)

We have slowing been destroying what it means to be a civic society for a long time. Not many people meet in the park these days to discuss ideas (or gossip) on Sunday afternoons.

And remember when Reagan said that "government is the problem". And all of those names on buildings at your local university? Someone's name on a building helps insure the university does that person's bidding.

So I have an idea.... why don't we stop giving our money to rich assholes or corrupt government assholes, and since neither will serve your interests, save your money. You will need it.

What this boils down to is we as a nation have decided that the government has very little role to play in our lives and we would rather have private enterprise run the show. With corrupt politicians this has become a self fulfilling prophecy. We used to own the government. Now private enterprise does. Watch as the US Postal Service is delivered to the hands of private enterprise in the next 10 years.

Life (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46498031)

Needs Facts, Not Agendas. You can sing about how this is capitalism at it's finest. It's the two generations down the line who will get fed biased information and suffer for it on the world stage.

'twas ever thus (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46498037)

I'm sure that Ludovico Sforza of Milan only funded Leonardo to work on things he thought were useful. Unless you were independently wealthy, the idea of getting funding to work on fundamental research that you think is useful has been pretty rare.

tough one (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46498051)

The Global Warming / Climate Change debate seemed almost over a few years yet slowly the truth came out -- arthropogenic activity is responsible for perhaps 1/2 of the temperature rise, with the rest being natural. Simply guiding money to groups of people who make up scary scories in order to get even more money isn't all that different from funding religion..

Want Proper Science, Funding is there, However,.. (1)

3seas (184403) | about 7 months ago | (#46498061)

....the employees have control over the peoples funding of government. and That is inherent Corruption incentive.

How are the so called representatives to represent the people in this republic when they have no way of knowing what the people want?
The "No Vote" won the last election by far, worse qualified voter turnout % since before 1948 if not of all time. But Taxpayers still fund government, and this doesn't change..

What is missing is the paperwork allowing the taxpayers to say how their taxes are to be used. This in turn sets the budget and communicates via the solid bottom line of money budgeted as to what the people want represented. Think Crowd funded government.

Tax processors allocate per each taxpayers instructions. Government has to be transparent with what they want funding for or they do not get it. Taxpayers are limited in what they can chose their taxes to be used for as it must be in matters of generating teamwork benefits shared by the citizens.

Voting is a limited democratic supplement to the Republic in deciding who gets the job of optimizing the peoples funding for teamwork benefits optimization. Voting is also used for influencing the pool of funds the taxpayers decide to let the government deciding on how used (funding buffer).

When the employees no longer have control over the peoples funding of government then the corrupt will no longer find they want to be in politics, as its no longer a free lunch to do whatever they want after lying to the people to get elected, but a JOB of fulfilling the intents of the people.

This happens no less than once a year as its part of the tax return paperwork and for each at the level of taxes paid, local, state, federal.

Its not a difficult thing to implement and can be eased in as taxpayers can decide on how much of their taxes they direct and how much they allow government to decide. So its not like a taxpayer has to take full responsibility but its clear in time as people become used to and confident in the decision of the people, the more they will take responsibility for.

If you do not trust the people to make the right choices then what? You rig elections?

How I know this will work is the example of Free Open Source Software works in a similar manner and if you don't know what all is available... then you are missing out by your corporate greed feeding. Feeding that can be better directed elsewhere.

Imagine the government system getting revised by the people once a year, to express what the people want, and how well this will tell the representatives what they are to represent.

The way things are today, the employees have control over the bank account, cannot set a budget and in their guilt and effort to dismiss it have been spending money spying on the very people funding them and passing laws against the same. This is no different than a spoiled bully brat addicted to killing.

Its not what the people are intent on funding. For the people would have to be self destructive to do so.
The correction is simple and fitting of the Republic the founders of this country founded.

Where is the required taxpayer voice paper work, and government funding request information to make it possible for representatives to know what they are to represent?

Copy this comments and send to your representatives and repost.... That would be a start!

Better Than The Alternative (2)

anorlunda (311253) | about 7 months ago | (#46498201)

I'm sure that this news may make a lot of slashdotters uncomfortable. But I ask you to think of the alternative. They could spend their billions influencing elections. How many attack ads can you buy for $75 billion?

Here's a challenge. How should billionaires spend their money?

I'm not asking for how you would spend the billions if it was yours, nor am I interested in your concept of social justice or what is beneficial for mankind. I'm challenging you to try to imagine the world from, the billionaire's view.

Maybe basic research isn't what we need (1)

russotto (537200) | about 7 months ago | (#46498211)

We've got tons of "basic research" which doesn't go anywhere. How often on this site do we hear about a new breakthrough in solar energy or batteries or cellulosic biofuel that ends up going nowhere? Perhaps we really do need more in the way of applied research and development; get one of these "breakthroughs" to actually do something.

And then there's physics, which in terms of basic research has spent decades trying to break the Standard Model with more and more powerful accelerators, and gotten zip for it; the Standard Model survives and we haven't gotten any useful applications for a very long time.

no change, really (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46498217)

No scientist should think that having the government dominate research funding for the last 70-ish years was a good thing.

I'm not going to guess what billionaires want from scientists, but I know what metrics government guys used, I've been one of them. What I'm going to say is not exactly good for my career, hence the AC post.

A government program manager was judged entirely on 1) papers published, 2) PhDs granted and 3) total amount of money they gave away. If a scientist could make a credible case that they could publish a lot of high profile papers, graduate a lot of students and justify a later need for a larger budget, that was (and still is) gold. We shouldn't fool ourselves into thinking there was some "greater good" metric that went into calculating a program manager's place on the GSA scale or a program's total budget. Not once did I sit in a meeting where anyone with power pretended to give a shit about anything like that.

For a long time, government funding has been about getting good press for the political class and ensuring that the scientific labor market is so flooded in the US that industrial research stays cost competitive here.

There IS a lot of good that comes out of focusing on those things, but I became very, very frustrated that we funded a whole lot of what we KNEW was bullshit and that we couldn't fund good projects because they were "too close to commercialization." This is why you see the same "discoveries" repeated every five years, and why there's so much vaporware in working with new materials and techniques.

A little competition for the public spotlight might be good for these government programs.

Not anything new (1)

gatkinso (15975) | about 7 months ago | (#46498251)

In the old days did not the kinds have Imperial Mathematicians, imperial astronomers, and what not?

The only thing new here is that we now know who the kings really are.

is anyone else.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46498345)

...getting sick of billionaires? I wish they'd just go back to amassing wealth and buying stuff.

The alternative being govt funding? (1)

RogueWarrior65 (678876) | about 7 months ago | (#46498353)

When the alternative is government funding, you're at the mercy of political winds and the loss of a patron in the next election.

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