The mothership asks:
Since they’re funded by taxpayer dollars (through the NIH, NSF, and so on), should scientists have to justify their research agendas to the public, rather than just grant-making bodies?
No. Every two years the NSF publishes its Sciencen & Engineering Indicators (2004 results are here), and every two years results reinforce the sad fact that public understanding of basic scientific principles & modes of thought falls very far short of what would be necessary for the public to be able to make informed decisions regarding research.
That being said, I think that the public should reap the benefits of the research that it has funded. Public funds should not be used to generate profit (through research outcomes that become patented) for biomedical corporations that then charge the public an arm and a leg.