- In Space Dust: Your Tax Dollars At Work, Boing Boing’s Maggie Koerth-Baker interviews Attila Kovacs, a University of Minnesota astrophysicist. Kovacs is spot on about the cost of doing science and the altered scientific priorities of once-great corporate research labs, and his final words sum up why I support the government funding of science.
Basic research used to be privately funded in the past, like with Bell Labs. That used to be THE place where basic research was happening. But somehow that model has disappeared and I think it’s because corporations are looking for more short term goals. There’s really no corporation doing basic research in the same way Bell Labs did.
… Corporations are interested in proprietary technologies and getting out ahead of another company. They won’t share what [they discover] and they’ll use it exclusively to their advantage. They’ll file patents and protect their turf. And that’s fine. But the reason we want public funding is that we want to generate public knowledge. We want to share this with the world. We want it to be immediately available to everyone around us. Science doesn’t have trade secrets. I think public funding is essential to keep it that way.
If they don’t step up from spectacle to actual involvement (as the Tea Party ended up doing successfully), even at the most local levels where the work is the most tedious, they aren’t going to change one damn thing.