Friday, November 26, 2010
The public made it clear in the recent election that they want the economy
fixed and the federal budget balanced. An editorial in todays Science
magazine by Alan Leshner, AAAS CEO, predicts science funding will be cut 5
to 10%, maybe more. What would that mean for science? We all know of
existing programs that ought to be completely eliminated, but they won't
be. The cuts will fall disproportionately on new programs including the
scie no nce America needs to stay competitive. China and North Korea wont
be cutting science. Leshner reminds us that the case for research was laid
out extremely well in two reports by the U.S. National Academies: Rising
Above the Gathering Storm,http://bobpark.physics.umd.edu/WN08/wn050908.html,
and its recent update, Rapidly Approaching Category 5. It's up to us to convey that
message to the public, and enlist the publics help in reaching Congress.
Earmarking is almost as old as Congress and was a principal means of
funding sewers and other water projects. Earmarks are not debated or voted
on. Sen. John Kyl (R-AZ) was one of the most vocal Republican critics of
the practice of earmarking. Three days after Republicans, including Kyl,
voted for a ban on the practice, Kyl slipped a $200 million settlement for
Arizona Indian water rights claims into an unrelated bill.
Often referred to as "pork-barrel funding," a Washington lobbying firm
specialized in obtaining large earmarks for federal scientific research
grants to specific universities in the decade from 1984 to 1994. The work
often failed to measure up to the standards of the funding agencies, and
the money was often diverted to other uses, seriously undermining the
stature of federal research awards. The APS was the first science
organization to expose the earmarking practice and continued to expose
science earmarks in more than 30 issues of WN from 1984 to 1994.
Earmarking did not end, but moved back to the sewers from whence it
I have a number of devoutly religious physics colleagues who are able to
partition their life: scientist on one side, devout believer on the other.
I can only admire the ease with which they move from one side of the
partition to the other. With climate change as the greatest threat we
face, we may only hope that Rep. John Shimkus (R-Ill.), a member of the
House Committee on Energy and Commerce since 1997, has such a partition and
equal alacrity in making the transition. He submitted a letter to his
colleagues earlier this week asking for their blessing in his campaign to
assume the gavel of Energy when Republicans take control of the chamber.
Shimkus rejects the posibility of man-made climate disaster. "The Earth
will end only when God declares its time to be over. Man will not destroy
this Earth. This Earth will not be destroyed by a Flood," Shimkus then
quoted God's promise to Noah after the flood. "never again will I destroy
all living creatures as I have done." Genesis 8:21-22. "I do believe that
Gods word is infallible," Shimkus said, "unchanging, perfect."