Why Sarah Palin Should Be Thankful For Fruit Flies
The consensus of many Republicans about basic science research is that it is more evidence for “government waste.” In 2010, YouCut Citizen Review, a crowdsourcing tool for identifying unnecessary government spending, put the National Science Foundation at the top of its list for budget cuts, says Wired.
However, that hasn’t stopped the government from promoting scientific endeavors. A bipartisan group of six Congressmen have, along with organizations including the National Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), joined forces to create the Golden Goose Awards. These awards are intended to honor those whose basic research has had humane or economic benefits, including life-saving medicines and technological advances that can lead to advances in national security, energy, the environment, communications and public health.
Congressman Jim Cooper (D-TN) came up with the idea and named the awards as a deliberate play on the “Golden Fleece Awards” that Senator William Proxmire (D-WI) issued between 1975 and 1988 to mock federally-funded research which, seeming to have no practical applications, was dubbed a symbol of the government throwing away citizens’ tax dollars.
First Winners of Golden Goose Awards Announced Last Week
The first set of Golden Goose Awards was handed out on September 13.
Charles Towne, a professor at Columbia University, was cited for the maser, which was essential for the development of the laser technology without which we wouldn’t have computer hard drives, CDs, digital video, satellite broadcasting, laser eye surgery or laser treatment for cancer.
You can already hear Palin or one of her ilk laughing about green fluorescent protein as some sort of slime-thing. Keep laughing, Sarah: The research of Osamu Shimomura, Martin Chalfie and Roger Tsien looks at the proteins and genetics that make a jellyfish glow green has had applications in genetics, cell biology, developmental biology and neurobiology, thereby contributing to a “better understanding of cancer, brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s, and other human diseases, and methods used widely by the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries.”
Coralline bone grafts are often used today to treat bone injury and deformity; they cause no negative immune reaction in humans. Scientists Jon Weber, Eugene White, Rodney White and Della Roy (all at Penn State University) played a part in developing the bone graft materials, though that was not a goal any of them had. Weber and the two Whites (an uncle and nephew) studied the chemical composition and structure of coral; they found it to be “ideal for allowing blood vessels to grow into an implant made with the coral, promoting the growth of new bone.” Roy developed a method that made it possible for the coral actually to be used as bone graft material.
In other words, the sum total and combination of basic research by a number of scientists has led to exciting, and highly needed, creations.
Palin herself be so grateful for fruit fly research, especially in view of its importance for genetics and basic research for treatments for Down Syndrome (which Palin’s youngest son, Trig, has) as well as autism (which her nephew has).
As Cooper (with a reference to Christopher Columbus) and Alan I. Leshner, chief executive of the AAAS, wrote in the Washington Post, “Let’s honor our modern-day explorers. We need more of them. They deserve the last laugh.”
I’d say they are getting it and a more than deserved golden egg, too.
Related Care2 Coverage
Photo via Wikimedia Commons