The July 13th issue of Science had a letter that I want to take a post to draw attention to. In it, James Gentile (President of the private funder Research Corporation) responds to John Marburger (Bush’s science advisor), who recently called for U.S. researchers to rely more on private philanthropy and industry to expand the scientific enterprise (“U.S. science adviser tells researchers to look elsewhere,” J. Mervis, News of the Week, 11 May, p. 817). Gentile’s response puts the situation in stark perspective:
We at Research Corporation, America’s first foundation for science advancement (begun in 1912), would like to say we stand ready to heed Marburger’s marching orders. We’d like to boldly step forward to fund U.S. scientific research, so that the administration could continue to cut taxes for the rich and focus taxpayer dollars elsewhere, including the reported $9 billion or so it spends every month in Iraq. Alas, we can’t.
Our $170 million endowment, even when combined with those of our sister science advancement foundations, isn’t likely to meet all the needs of U.S. researchers left high and dry by flat federal funding. In 2004, the top 50 private U.S. foundations awarding science and technology grants distributed just under $456 million. This sum pales in comparison to the impact and importance of federal dollars.
Now, I don’t know how $456 million would compare with the funding of, say, the UK, the EU, China, or elsewhere, but the NSF for the same year received $5.5 billion in discretionary federal funding, and the NIH roughly ten times as much as that. So, with $456 million, we will suffocate scientific research in this country. And with an economy fueled by science-driven technology and medicine R&D, our economy would tank very quickly (and dramatically) upon the shut-down of science funding.
Oh, and don’t forget that we can easily afford all of this at current levels (we’re spending well over a trillion dollars on Iraq, and doing just fine, afterall).
So why does Bush (and his lackey Marburger) want to raid the Ivory Tower? Why is there such hatred for science amongst the rabid conservatives running the Republican Party?