Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Science: Can you believe I'm siding with Bill Frist?

While my political views obviously lie on the left side of the spectrum that society has created, I believe there really is no such thing as a Republican or a Democrat. We all have ideas and positions on issues and they don't always align with whatever political parties we see every day. On the issue of Science Funding, this is definitely a bi-partisan (multi-partisan?) issue and people from all sides can have solid reasonable ideas. These party wars do not solve the problems of our society, they interfere with efforts to solve problems. I was very happy to read this morning an article by Bill Frist published in the Inside Higher Education on-line magazine about congress' efforts to increase funding for basic science. He makes some very accurate arguments.
"While I have nothing against applied research — as a doctor, I never did any other kind — we ultimately need to do more basic research if we want to retain our position as a world leader. The invention of devices like the iPod, a wonderful machine that has changed the way we listen to music, will never result in a Nobel Prize. Without new fundamental discoveries about the nature of the universe and our world, the United States can’t remain the world’s economic and technological leader."
This is truly a bipartisan effort and one that I think Bill takes too much credit for. While I applaud Bill for making the case I do wonder how much he truly believes and how much he is using for political gain. I think back to the Terry Schiavo fiasco and that causes me to pause a bit in my praise for Bill. Never the less, the message is right this time. On a similar note, the Bush administration, and even Sen. Frist, have stood by as the NIH changed it's fundamental support mechanisms away from basic science endangering a whole generation of young scientists trying to get established. Although the NIH budget has doubled from 1999-2003 (initiated during the Clinton administration), the number of individual RO1 grants, the ones that really support researchers in basic biomedical sciences, has, alarmingly, decreased. So, I think we need to do more to fix the NIH, not just increase NSF funding.

1 comment:

GraemeAnfinson said...

Good for him. He came out for stem cell research too I believe. He also said something about forming a dialogue with fighters in Afghanistan. He might not be as crazy as he looks or acts!