Funding Fundamentals

DSC_0051Imagine your life without your phone. Or your laptop. Welcome to your life if funding for fundamental science hadn’t existed several decades ago. You can say goodbye to that lightweight lithium ion battery that has made all portable electronics possible. Oh and it might be able to save the planet with electric vehicles, so that’s also pretty good. Somewhere, at some point, someone had to do that basic fundamental chemistry, physics, or materials development that lead to that innovation. And yet the number of people who think that we should be primarily funding industry driven research is actually astounding.

I get it, there is no immediate return on the investment, and often there is no return at all. I get it, the general public doesn’t tune in to some fancy press conference when a new chemical bond is discovered. I get it, there is no benefit to the huge companies that outsource their research and development to academic research labs where the labour is dirt cheap. But these are the discoveries that ALLOW amazing people like John Goodenough to develop a lithium ion battery and change everything.

Even in the last decade that I’ve been a part of ‘the system’ there has been a shift in where the money is going. The general public feels more empowered than ever to decide where the funding for science (among other things) should go. I’m sorry, Joe, but what the fuck do you know about quantum chemistry? Should you really be the one to decide that Professor Smith’s field of research shouldn’t have the same access to funding because it doesn’t immediately improve your life? I’m not saying we should have blind faith in governing bodies, but as someone who has spent 5 years becoming an expert in a tiny corner of a small field of one branch of science I realize that there are people who know a lot more than I do, and that I have no business deciding things that I know nothing about, or worse, did a quick Google search about (that rant will have to be saved for another time).

If you’re reading this, please, I urge you to stop supporting politicians who think that defunding basic science is a good cost-cutting measure. I urge you to understand that while it seems frivolous in the short term, it is EVERYTHING in the long term.

Ok, rant over. Go Science!

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