Monday, June 22, 2009

Recession? Finally, big science gets the picture: Think payload

From a Nature editorial:
Whether dealing with the Labour government or the Conservative opposition, UK scientists as a whole need to avoid giving the impression that they are impervious to the requirements of the nation and that any outsider should simply give them the money and leave them to get on with it. This will be especially true over the next 12 months, as the country heads towards a general election and as both main political parties plan future expenditures.
Yes, exactly. The growing ranks of the unemployed do not oppose science, but they do want to know its payload. Will their children be more likely to have jobs if they study science? Or is it just an expensive hobby for science profs?

That's a difficult question because often no one really knows whether a given pioneer research project will lead anywhere. Electricity led somewhere; phrenology did not. At the time, who knew? Tactful and honest answers are very well advised.