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More Funding For Science, Say Nobel Laureates

Posted by: Michael Mandel on May 07

I just got this press release from the American Physical Society. This is the sort of thing which depresses me. If we can’t find the money to spend on science and innovation, then my optimism index goes way down.

America’s Physics Nobel Laureates Send Letter to President Bush Requesting Emergency Science Funding to Reverse Damage to Science

WASHINGTON, D.C.- America’s Physics Nobel Laureates sent a letter to President Bush today requesting that $510 million be included in the Fiscal Year 2008 Emergency Supplemental Bill in an effort to reverse the damage done to basic science research in the FY ’08 Omnibus Appropriations Bill.

After the Omnibus Appropriations Bill passed last year, scientists lost their jobs; grants and fellowships were cut; and facilities operations were scaled back at national laboratories. In addition, the nation’s $160 million contribution to the construction of the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER), was cut from the budget, damaging our reputation as a reliable partner for international projects.

The FY ’08 budget sent the wrong message to aspiring scientists who are considering entering the science field. Instead of doubling funding as outlined in the bipartisan American COMPETES Act, which passed Congress by an overwhelming margin last year, it even fails to provide for inflation-adjusted costs.

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Reader Comments

Brandon W

May 8, 2008 06:56 AM

Bush's Religious Right contingent doesn't want those lousy self-important scientists trying to tell them the universe wasn't created in six days.

Or maybe it's because the country is bankrupt?

Oh well... Roll the presses! The printing presses, that is. In a few years the inflation will mean that half-a-billion US$ will make for a decent down payment on a Honda Civic. Not that anyone will be able to afford the $5000/gal to put gas in it.


May 8, 2008 04:12 PM

Brandon W,

Quit your fact-challenged Bush Derangement Syndrome groupthink. You truly can't see the world though any other lens, can you?

Fact-based people know that it was Clinton who slashed Federal Basic Research spending, and Bush that increased it. Only in 2008 did Bush cut it, but it is still higher than it was under Clinton.

Official government stats :

Facts matter; to some people, at least.

Religious Right? Or do you mean Religious Wright? You know, the person who says Federal R&D money went towards creating the AIDS virus? Did you omit the 'W' from 'Wright' only because that letter of the alphabet has damaged you for life?

Like, get a clue, dude. Now wonder Democrats are losing the votes of high and even average-IQ people.

Brandon W

May 8, 2008 06:17 PM

You missed both the joke AND the real point. Good work. 0 for 2.

By the way, I still don't consider the Clinton administration any different than Reagan or Bush I (both horrible). He's better than Bush II, but every President was better than Bush II. Point is... get over the baiting. Won't work.


May 8, 2008 07:59 PM

Here are the official government stats :


May 8, 2008 08:02 PM

More on Federal R&D by eyar, both total and as a percent of GDP.


May 8, 2008 08:59 PM

Brandon did you hear some static noise?? some sort of buzzzzzzz....

Our high IQ guy/gal however has somewhat a point, the erosion in R&D spending come from far away, well before the idiotic son of the establishment got a shot at the White House....even before Bill & Hill if you take out strictly military R&D figures.

Brandon W

May 9, 2008 09:35 AM

What I find interesting about Kartik is:
1) He has to infuse his debate with political baiting and straw-man tactics.
2) He hates Clinton and blames him for everything, but is perfectly willing to use the statistical formulas the Clinton administration created to hide unemployment and inflation numbers (which Bush II has continued to use and expand upon); using those flawed statistics to support his claims of the grandness and health of the American economy.

Kartik, you can't have it both ways. Either Clinton did wonderful things in his presidency and created the only balanced budget in decades, or he helped in the creation of statistical models for the purpose of hiding much higher unemployment and inflation. If he did so (which he did), then so did Reagan, Bush I, and Bush II. If that is the case, any numbers coming out of the government are false (criminally so, in my opinion).

So, my right-wing friend... Was Clinton a great, honest president who accomplished amazing things no other President has done in decades? Or are these statistics you rely on for your arguments consciously, criminally cooked? It's one or the other.

L A Ogren

May 9, 2008 07:08 PM


Tell this to The Business Roundtable. If they meant what they said, then they, too, will plead for the advancement of science.

I, for one, have had a great career playing out possibilities that stemmed indirectly from government funding, not necessarily recognized as valuable at the time.

A little more unbiased economics research might serve us well, too, especially into systemic risk, robustness of hedging strategies, ... ?!?!


May 9, 2008 09:57 PM

Brandon W,

You can't accept the actual data, can you?

Until you accept the actual government data provided, you are not a thinker, merely someone who is behaving in a manner analogous to rooting for your sports team.

I never said I 'hate' Clinton. You are the one who hates Republicans, even though you can't address simple points supported by data.

"Was Clinton a great, honest president who accomplished amazing things no other President has done in decades? Or are these statistics you rely on for your arguments consciously, criminally cooked?"

Neither. The statistics are not 'cooked', and Clinton's average unemployment rate over 8 years (5.3%) was worse than GWB's has been so far (5.1%). Taking Clinton's 2 best years and ignoring theother 6 years of decent but unspectacular stats is, once again, a shameful inability to understand data.


If I rank the two of you, you are far less capable than Brandon W - at least his grammar is good. Your posts are not even coherent, and your use of anecdotes as a substitute for hard data betrays a shocking lack of thinking skills. I have fully checkmated you in previous debates, and you are way out of your league.


May 9, 2008 10:04 PM

"1) He has to infuse his debate with political baiting and straw-man tactics."

er... this from the person who starts the very post on this thread with "Bush's Religious Right...". A normal person could not conduct such hypocrisy.

Yet, Brandon is humilated into ashamed silence when someone shows that Bush actually increased Federal R&D, while Clinton cut it.

A normal person would concede that he was wrong. But alas, the actual numbers don't fit the narrative.

Be a real man (not a girlie-man like Gov. Schwarzenegger calls you), and admit that you were wrong about Federal R&D.

L A Ogren

May 10, 2008 10:22 PM

Too bad that the importance of this message from the AAAS report is being buried in political bickering: "Federal research investments are shrinking as a share of the U.S. economy, just as other nations are increasing their investments." It would look even worse if not for the outsized generosity to NIH.

Brandon W

May 11, 2008 12:24 AM

I give up on you, really. You dodge every discussion of the validity of the methodology, and try to turn it into a political battle. I'm not playing anymore.


May 11, 2008 05:07 AM

Right, cuz we know all the great innovation that has come out of basic science research. Rather, innovation comes from better ways for investors to sponsor it, like seed investing or having people with both business and technical skills evaluating projects. The last place it comes from is anything government-related. I think it's great news that this science welfare program is being cut and look forward to further cuts in entitlements.

Brandon W

May 12, 2008 07:18 AM

With the federal government running an annual deficit of over $4 trillion (using GAAP accounting instead of "convenient" accounting), a lot more than federal R&D is going to be cut.


May 12, 2008 12:46 PM


I will, for the good of this blog and its contributors, follow Brandon's lead and just quit on you.
It is like trying to talk about trigonometry with a just don't get it...hopeless.
You have full checkmated me??..That's truly galling...I cornered you so many times it wasn't even funny anymore. I supplied to you so many sources of data you could swim in it.

When you just can't do it, you resort to childish blabbering showing your true colors and your disheartening lack of intellectual depth attacking my "grammar"..that is truly below teenager talk...Bravo! you reached a new who is insecure and aggressive?? Never mind...

BTW I can speak, read and write, decently, in 4 different languages...what about you??
Don't bother to answer, I will ignore you from now on. This thing dragged on for too long, I do not really have time for this, and I want to be respectful of Michael and other fellow posters, this blog is not our personal playground and you are fully cooked already anyway, even glazed at the top for that matter...
I sincerely apologize to everyone for the disruption...and Kartik you should apologize as well.


May 12, 2008 09:22 PM

Brandon W,

Let me also refer you to Mike Mandel's article from 11/15/2004, titled "Faith, Hope, and Progress"

So Mike Mandel also points out which party increased R&D, at least before 2008. What do you have to say about that?

Once again, the Federal Data on R&D is also here :

You can't comprehend the actual facts, that Bush increased R&D spending that Clinton slashed. I have supporting data, and you have nothing to support your blind belief.

"I give up on you, really"

At least you have admitted that you lost the debate. But until you admit the facts in the sources provided, and retract your bigoted comment, you are not a thinker.

I truly hope I never become so cultishly indoctrinated that I go out of my way to avoid official data just to keep some preconceived blind belief on life support.

Brandon W

May 13, 2008 02:08 PM

You have just proven my last set of points perfectly. You:
1) Evaded the discussion of methodology and its validity.
2) Tried to make it political.

The end.

Mike Mandel

May 16, 2008 03:22 PM

A nonpartisan view: Whenever the government gets into a budget-slashing mode, the first thing that gets the hit is R&D--no direct constituents.

I'm not actually sure that we as a country believe in growth and innovation.

Brandon W

May 16, 2008 06:22 PM

I don't know that a country is able to "believe" in growth and innovation; and if it can, whether it matters. It may well be that innovation is a result of coincidental historical factors, i.e. you have to simply be lucky to "be in the right place at the right time." I think the U.S. was lucky to be in the position it was after World War II (the only industrial economy still standing). We coasted on it for many years. Even the Internet is the result of innovation done in the 1960s. It may be that the inertia from that ended around 2000, and we've bought the last 7 years on credit cards.


May 21, 2008 08:15 AM


You're correct that the internet is a DARPA project from the 1960s, but until the 1990s it was just a technical novelty restricted to very few people. It took a European, Tim Bernes-Lee, to create HTML and the world wide web as we know it today. Without HTML, there would be no such thing as a web site. That's a pretty significant leap of innovation paid for by CERN and American research labs.

The U.S. wasn't just lucky to be the only developed economy left standing after WW2, but it was also lucky to have a powerful competitor in technological and military might. That competition drove a lot of research, innovation and radically new ideas that were eagerly tested such as ion propulsion and nuclear fusion (also from the 1960s). But as the USSR began to fade and now in its position as the sole superpower, the U.S. is suffering from a lack of motivation for massive projects (again in the 60s there were lunar landings and talk of colonizing Mars, now we sent a couple of tin cans here and there once in a while on a shoestring budget) and a myopic focus on quarterly cost cutting in its corporations. The lackluster funds for R&D are the result of these afflictions.

The U.S. needs China to rise to the level of a superpower to kick start its innovation machine. Another competitor, someone with whom to match wits, scale and grandeur of scientific, commercial and military projects may just be what the doctor ordered and provide the motivation for 1960s style R&D that has given us the modern world. The question is whether America would rise up to the challenge and compete or whether its citizens have been chanting the "we're number one" mantra so long they feel no impetus to prove it once again to the world at large.

In the scale of such global issues, people like Kartik who seem only capable of political baiting and arguing who slashed more of what budget are nothing more than superficial distractions from real problems requiring real expertise rather than trite partisan bickering.


May 28, 2008 01:36 AM

Sigh, more people mouthing the delusion that the internet and HTML were somehow great successes for government research. If you knew anything technical at all, rather than repeating third-hand stories told to you by equally clueless would-be historians, you'd know that HTML and TCP/IP (the internet) were trivial fabrications that are merely the final languages chosen for computer communication. The real innovation was in private industry, where they drove down computing costs matching Moore's law every year, so that we could finally implement these networking languages cheaply. Even if you give the governments some iota of credit for HTML and TCP/IP originating from publicly-funded projects, which I don't, you'd have to then compare it to all the waste in government research, all the projects that go absolutely nowhere. The world has moved on from Brandon's, Mike's, and Random's fantasy of government-funded research that funds future innovation, time for you guys to get with the times.

Brandon W

June 2, 2008 05:54 PM

In today's game of "beat the number" on Wall St., the only R&D corporations care about is the sort that results in boosts to the next quarter's numbers. It's derivative. I don't think that government research is a be-all end-all, but I do think that corporate America long-ago gave up on innovation; we're evolutionary (at best) and not revolutionary. We cheerlead the Internet as being some grand success of innovation, but I'm saying that the revolutionary part of it (whether private or government is irrelevant) was 40 years ago. We haven't done much of anything really revoltionary since. We coasted on our laurels through the 1960s and have faded since.


June 8, 2008 09:23 AM

And how would you know what is revolutionary or evolutionary, Brandon? For example, we're deploying wireless data networks nowadays that could be revolutionary. And evolutionary innovation is much more important than revolutionary, as you can only have so many revolutions and constantly improving on the results of a revolution leads to much more benefit than the initial change. An example would be the constant evolutionary semiconductor research that Intel and IBM bankroll in order to keep Moore's law on pace. It was this type of constant hardware innovation that led to the internet, not the trivial protocols that someone came up with 40 years ago and that we finally used because it happened to be lying around and most importantly FREE. I agree that the pace of innovation could be even faster than it is now but I certainly don't expect government research to help that. Instead, what we need is people to constantly improve our markets, making them more efficient and competitive.

Thank you for your interest. This blog is no longer active.



Michael Mandel, BW's award-winning chief economist, provides his unique perspective on the hot economic issues of the day. From globalization to the future of work to the ups and downs of the financial markets, Mandel-named 2006 economic journalist of the year by the World Leadership Forum-offers cutting edge analysis and commentary.

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