Posted by: Michael Mandel on June 23
We all know that one of the main functions of government is funding basic research, with long-term, highly uncertain payoffs. After all, nobody else is going to do it.
So here’s the question—what kind of basic research have gotten the big increases over the past three decades or so? I used data from the NSF, adjusted for inflation, and compared with the overall growth of the economy.
I was a bit surprised at what I found:
|Federal obligations for basic research|
|Math and computer sciences||279%|
|Overall economic growth|
|All numbers are inflation-adjusted|
The strong growth of basic research funding for life sciences and math and computer topics is not a surprise. But I was amazed to see how little increase there was in funding for basic research in physical sciences (which includes energy)—I knew it had lagged economic growth, but I didn’t realize by how much. And frankly, I would have guessed that there would have been a much bigger increase in basic funding for environmental sciences, psychology, and social sciences.
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