Some Underfunded U.S. Scientists Give Up, Research Abroad Instead
For decades, the United States has been at the forefront of scientific discovery. Unfortunately, however, the nation looks poised to lose its status as one of the world’s best innovators. As RawStory reports, not only has funding for the sciences taken a major dive, but now, nearly 20% of American scientists admit they are considering moving to another nation that could cover their research expenses.
Scientific research is of immeasurable importance, allowing us to make informed decisions about health, energy and the environment. Nonetheless, the United States is the only major power to have decreased its percentage of spending on science. Shamefully, it looks like we might lose some of the country’s most brilliant minds simply because we no longer prioritize funding them.
The survey of 3,700 American scientists finds that the economy has greatly impacted their field. Over half of the respondents said that either they or a colleague has lost their job due to a lack of finances. For many scientists, moving would be less of a choice and more of a necessity in order to continue researching.
When people cry for a smaller government and that the private sector will take care of our needs, they’re obviously not considering scientific research. Most scientific research in this country is reliant on federal money, and after many budgetary slashes, that money is dwindling.
In fact, most major government agencies that award money to researchers have had their own budgets decrease by 20-30%. As a result, NASA, the Department of Energy, the National Institute of Health and the National Science Foundation can no longer fund as many grants as they once did.
The deficit has left American scientists scrambling. 80% of them acknowledge that they now write more grants than they did in recent years, though the results are not as fruitful. In the end, two-thirds of the researchers also say they are receiving less money than they did previously even with the increased grant writing.
Young scientists are also getting shafted. More than half of scientists say they’ve had to turn down “promising” young researchers due to budgetary restrictions, leaving these recent grads out of the laboratories altogether. In many cases, the government has invested $200,000+ in these young adults in the form of college scholarships with the idea that they will give back to the country with their scientific pursuits after graduating. Ultimately, however, without jobs or facilities for these emerging scientific minds to work, that investment goes wasted.
It’s no secret that science has come under attack in Congress. Be it global warming, evolution or matters of women’s health, some politicians aren’t interested in allowing scientific evidence to stand in the way of their unsubstantiated beliefs. Still, just because scientific discovery is “controversial” to some, that’s no reason to abandon it altogether.
This nation will need scientific inquiry to battle the next life-threatening disease, help handle the impending energy crisis and better understand how to take care of our planet. Allowing our researchers to go jobless or even move away could prove to be way more costly than if we funded their efforts currently.