So, the President gave some sort of speech to a bunch of smart people yesterday (video, transcript), and hearts are a-flutter all over the science blogosphere, as President Obama promises great things for science:
We double the budget of key agencies, including the National Science Foundation, a primary source of funding for academic research, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology, which supports a wide range of pursuits – from improving health information technology to measuring carbon pollution, from testing “smart grid” designs to developing advanced manufacturing processes. And my budget doubles funding for the Department of Energy’s Office of Science which builds and operates accelerators, colliders, supercomputers, high-energy light sources, and facilities for making nano-materials. Because we know that a nation’s potential for scientific discovery is defined by the tools it makes available to its researchers.
Of course, it’s worth remembering what I said on a similar occasion a few years ago:
[Y]eah, “double the federal commitment to the most critical basic research programs in the physical sciences over the next 10 years” sounds great. So does “If we reverse the polarity on the flux capacitor, we can generate an infinite amount of free energy, and a pony.” I’ll believe it when I see the pony.
Now, to be sure, I’m much more encouraged by Barack Obama saying good things about science policy than I am by George Bush saying good things about science policy. To this point, Obama seems to be taking the radical approach to governing of actually trying to enact the things he says he will enact. This is in stark contrast to Bush, who didn’t give any indication of remembering what he said five minutes after he said it.
Still, it’s a long way from a speech at the National Academy of Sciences to the authorization of grants. I’m hopeful that this President will follow through on his words, but I’m still going to wait until I see the pony before I make plans to go out riding.