Bailing out the sciences

Science’s policy blog reports:

[T]he House Democratic Steering and Policy Committee has invited not only noted economists Martin Feldstein, Mark Zandi, and Robert Reich [to discuss the economic recovery bill] but also Maria Zuber, a professor of geophysics of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and principal investigator on GRAIL, a NASA mission to measure variations in the moon’s gravitational field.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who will kick off the discussion, has made it clear that “investing in technology and innovation should be part of any economic recovery plan,” says a spokesperson for the committee, a message that Zuber is expected to emphasize. Also making that point will be engineer Norman Augustine, former CEO of Lockheed-Martin and author of the well-regarded 2005 National Academies’ report Rising Above the Gathering Storm: Energizing and Employing America for a Brighter Economic Future that called for a $20 billion investment in science education and research.

This makes ten tons of sense. Not only do research labs employ keep a lot of hooligans safely off the streets, the research that comes from those labs has a huge effect on future economic growth. While there can be a long lag between when you spend a dollar on research and when you get the payoff, it’s important to be looking past the immediate crisis. Boosting labs in academia and in industry will keep a lot of people employed, and will create the innovations that will require the factories and industries of tomorrow. We also need to pour money into SUPERTRAINS and bridges and weatherizing houses and erecting wind and solar farms. Those big construction projects will employ a lot of people, but once we’ve built SUPERTRAINS and bridges and weatherized millions of homes, there have to be new, well-paid, secure jobs for people to go into.

And that’s what investing in science gives you.


  1. #1 Cheryl Shepherd-Adams
    January 5, 2009

    Josh, did you see the (I think) November issue of Nature which had an article about the importance of keeping up investments in science especially during a flagging economy? I’ll see if I can dig up the magazine later. (Really, it’ll be digging, through the stack of magazines my husband can’t bear to throw out.)