Computer Scientists: do outreach or your science dies

August 16, 2013 at 1:56 am 1 comment

All the more reason for more computer scientists to answer Cameron Wilson’s “All Hands on Deck!” call, and to get involved in the CS10K effort.

The scientific community must also do the same, by convincing the public that it is worth spending tax dollars on research. Scientists: this isn’t someone else’s job – this is your job, starting immediately. If you personally hope to receive government research funds in the future, public engagement is now part of your job description. And if you and your colleagues don’t convincingly make the case to the public that your discipline should be funded, well then it won’t be. Without a public broadly supportive of funding science, it is all too easy for politicians looking for programs to cut to single out esoteric-sounding research programs as an excuse to further slash science funding.

via Scientists: do outreach or your science dies | Guest Blog, Scientific American Blog Network.

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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Mark Miller  |  August 19, 2013 at 9:09 pm

    I have been of two minds about this (though I am not in any scientific field in a capacity that society would recognize). On the one hand I see this as a time when increases in basic research would benefit our society and economy in the future. It’s done so in the past, and I think it behooves us to continue to fund it, though it’d be nice if basic research were actually funded, as opposed to project-based research. Science should be venturing into the unknown, not tinkering around the edges.

    I got involved in my own little “awareness” campaign re. this a couple years ago, on my blog, in a series of articles I’ve written (and am still working on) called “A history lesson in government R&D.”

    Isaac Asimov said that what endangers our society the most is ignorance, and stagnation of knowledge. The challenge in growing knowledge is getting people to understand that they may not see the fruits of supporting that endeavor, but that their children and grandchildren will. Hearing of Neil Armstrong’s death, it occurred to me to wonder, “As a society, are we future-oriented today?”

    As a counter-point to insured funding for research, I remember Jerry King recalling the history of his profession (mathematics) and the dreadful effect that guaranteed research funding had on how math professors saw their relationship to the discipline, and its future.

    On the other hand, I’ve seen the political difficulty of trying to increase funding in some areas while cutting it in others. Charges of favoritism arise. Such moves are rationally defensible, but a question that comes to mind is are we as a society willing to pay attention long enough to listen to such a defense and consider it, or do we no longer have the capacity? Will we live for the present and simply say, “Give me what I have coming to me,” or be dazzled by the latest “shiny new thing” and say, “Give us more of that”? Though I don’t like this prospect, an honest analysis of our present societal circumstance I think must consider whether the least worst option may be to mindlessly cut across the board, because at least the financial problem that is prompting the necessity for that action is being addressed, though anything else that would help circumstances in the future is hindered. The alternative, the federal government spending exorbitantly more than it takes in revenue, I think is worse for our long-term future.

    The article is I think right on the mark in saying that the federal system’s entitlement benefits are “eating the budget alive.” I looked at the projections for the federal budget’s future 17 years ago, if nothing about the structure of entitlement benefits was changed to address our demographics, and I used those words, verbatim, to describe where it would be today. I and many others tried to educate people about this problem, but simple mathematical projections, even if they were logically consistent with the rules built into these systems, were easy for most people to ignore. The systems seemed fine at the time… This is one of those times when I hate being right.

    Entitlements will give way. It’s just a matter of when. If it doesn’t happen politically, it will happen arithmetically. If the latter happens, people might be shocked who ends up calling the shots.


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