Monday, September 10, 2012

"Silly" Research ... Not So Much

In the first post to this blog, I talked a bit about a pet peeve of science writers: the oft-repeated argument that much government-funded research is frequently trivial and a waste of taxpayer dollars.

A goose. Seen by some as "silly."

Well, apparently it's not just those of us who write about research who feel this way, as an op-ed today's Washington Post says much the same thing. Entitled "It's Time to Get Serious About Science,"  AAAS CEO Alan Leshner and Congressman Jim Cooper de-bunk the popular sport of shooting at "odd" research activities. It's worth reading because it gives some wonderful examples of research that serious-minded people might not consider worthy of funding, and the wonderful things that came from this work regardless.

Further, the piece announces a new program aimed at counter-acting such public attitudes:
"a bipartisan team of U.S. lawmakers joined a coalition of science, business and education leaders to launch the Golden Goose Awards."
According to AAAS,
"In particular, the new award will honor federally funded researchers whose work may initially seem obscure or odd, yet contributes to discoveries that serve society in profound ways."
From my point of view, this is a natural activity for AAAS, the oldest and largest association of scientists in this country, with an express mission to "advance" science to the public. It's in the fundmental nature of scientific research, which probes strangely into places where no one has thought to look before, to seem goose-silly, and a lot of work needs to be done if you want people to understand that things here are not-as-they-seem.

Because you know what may happen to that "silly" goose when times are lean and the budget-cutting ax is sharp? You also may remember the story about killing the goose that layed the golden egg... Let's not go there.

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