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We need to fund basic science research

by tgposzadmin on August 6th, 2007

As some of you might know, I often write about technology topics in Telecommunications or Electrical Engineering. Today, however, I thought it important to pick a slightly different slant…

This weekend, I was listening to my backlog of podcasts and included in what I listened to were two different podcasts forTechNation where

  • Dr. Moira Gunn (the host) interviews Greg Lucier, the Chairman and CEO of Invitrogen. In the interview, the point that is put across on why society needs to fund basic science research.
  • Science journalist David Ewing Duncan discusses the “The Bio-Issue of the Week” with Dr. Gunn, in which drug spending (R&D) is up, but results in the from approved drugs are down and some drugs are about to come off patents, so revenues for these companies will eventually dry up.

In both cases, as I’m hearing and reading many other articles on diverse topics, it may be because our country doesn’t support the basic science research enough. For example, in the latter podcast, the point was made that there is a mountain of data out of the human genomics project that really needs detailed analysis; e.g. we know what a gene does, what we don’t know is exactly how it does it. Or considered another way, the genes that a human shares with a mouse is really a high percentage, something approaching 98%+, but what makes the difference between the human and the mouse is when and how the gene does it’s job.

Without interested people, without post-doc programs to provide research topics, … well, would you work in a field that is apparently drying up? But, it’s not really drying up, other countries, like Korea, China, and Australia have tremendous programs for this sort of thing. We are giving our best and brightest lost of reasons to leave this country.

The lack of sensible policy at the federal level, the lack of proper funding, in cross-disciplined approaches, to projects that are going to benefit us all, … well, I fear for the future (next couple of decades)…

You might say this isn’t important, but you’d be missing the point. The direct investment that DARPA, NASA, and other agencies had with science and technology research provided some glamour for the space program stuff of the 60’s, but it also lead to communications satellites and other mundane things like cellular telephone networks and devices.

Some like to say that Captain Kirk of the Starship Enterprise “invented” the cell phone, because of the use of the communicator on each Star Trek episode, but the fact of the matter was that the imagination of a whole generation was sparked, because of the believability of those episodes, and a market demand (for cell phone technology) was later satisfied, not only by companies trying to make money, but by a whole generation of engineering and scientific students that brought a passion to creating not only the mobile phone technologies we take for granted today, but the internet, the progress toward improvements in the cancer situation (many people can live out their lives today in remission, whereas 20 – 30 years ago, cancer was a death sentence) and countless other technologies we so easily take for granted.

We need to continue to improve upon this situation. Can you imagine a world without Diabetes? Did you know, we stand on the brink of figuring out how to accomplish this? This isn’t a would it be nice thing to do, there are huge costs in both medical support and human suffering associated with just this one disease. Make the investment – reap huge benefits; just like we did in mobile phone and internet technologies.

I’d like to ask you today, to write your congressman, tell them this is important to us, as a country, to change this situation. Invest in science. It doesn’t have to be preachy, it doesn’t have to any more than a 1-2 minute phone call or a 1 paragraph email, but do something to be part of the solution to change from an almost anti-science policy to one where, similar to the 60’s, we are on the road to great things.

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