Fellow Sber Shelley Dpicks up on a discussion of billionaires stepping up to fund basic research originally from Forbes. The most unfortunate passage reads:
(Dr.) Melton landed enough money to start a separate lab, and he works on turning his stem line into insulin-producing cells to study where they go wrong in diabetics. But half his budget goes to redundant lab gear and overhead he wouldn’t need if it weren’t for the NIH rules against stem-cell funding. His stem-cell colleague at Harvard, M. Wiliam Lensch, uses only private funding from Harvard but worries about getting in trouble if he merely talks to NIH-funded peers in his lab.
As I’ve discussed before, the arbitrary restriction of federal funding to a small number of largely useless lines has wasted a ton of money and tremendous amounts of time. I wonder if the objective wasn’t even more insidious, through.
The Bush administration has never hidden that it favors privatizing as much as possible. Forcing cutting research on stem cells out in search of private donors could well be a first step in privatizing the NIH and NSF. The sort of basic research that the federal government funds has always been deemed necessary because industry and private sponsors couldn’t be counted upon to make the heavy investment involved.
If researchers can be shown to succeed in science without federal funds, it will give anti-science Republicans another reason to cut federal funding for science, or to impose arbitrary restrictions on what research is conducted. What had been a non-partisan and independent process could more easily be turned into another battlefield for the culture war. Why fund research into evolutionary biology?, someone will probably step up to cover the gap. Same for climate change.
Forbes lists a half dozen rich folks who have helped fund research into stem cells. If they can grow that number large enough, they can essentially abdicate responsibility for funding science, just as they are trying to do by backing faith-based initiatives and privatizing Social Security.