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Talking the Spectre of Sequester on Huffington Post Live

Posted by Casey Dreier

2012/09/22 04:39 CDT

Topics: Space Policy, podcasts and videos

I joined a discussion on the new Huffington Post Live site the other day on the future of science funding and the spectre of Sequestration.

Though I would have liked to focus more on the issues of Sequestration than we did, I thought it was a solid discussion of the benefits of funding and the universal threats faced by all areas of science. The other guests were great, especially Fred Guterl from Scientific American. I managed to withhold my fanboy response to meeting the Executive Director of one of my favorite magazines.

Here's the video (~25 min):

Also, I have to correct myself. In the video I said the cost of Curiosity was a nickel per person. It's actually a dime per person per month of development of the mission. I blame being in the sun all day watching the Shuttle Endeavour land.

Joining me were:

  • David Sloan, Post-doctoral Fellow at West Virginia University in the Sensory Neuroscience Research Center
  • Daniel Kraft, Executive Director of FutureMed
  • Fred Guterl, Executive Director of the Scientific American
 

Or read more blog entries about: Space Policy, podcasts and videos

Comments:

-bob: 09/23/2012 01:34 CDT

Doesn't your other article actually comes up with a dime per person per MONTH? Maybe your point still stands, maybe not (ask the single mother with 6 kids when you show up looking for your money). But, let's say it is a ridiculously small amount spread out over hundreds of millions of people. Stands to reason it might be a not totally unreasonable amount spread out over, say a few hundred thousand people that actually care. Now, think about it, who's going to be more likely to cut funding for the next mission? A bunch of bureaucrats that think MSL is going to show them pretty pictures of Niel Armstrong vacationing on the moon, or a "shareholder" that understands what the long term return on investment really is? Just a thought...

Casey Dreier (TPS): 09/23/2012 03:17 CDT

@-bob: Thanks, I fixed the typo. But yes, I believe my point still stands. The cost, when spread through the community, is very small and the reward very great. Sadly, there is no way (currently) to financially involve highly motivated individual stakeholders for government-sponsored missions. It's just not how federal funding and management is set up to work. We are seeing glimmers of a new future in the way of private companies like SpaceX (if it sells private shares) or major crowd-funded missions like the B612 Sentinel or the Planetary Society's LightSail. These are all much simpler missions than anything NASA can create, though, which is why reaching out and trying to build public support for our current system is so important to me personally and the Society at large.

z3n0n: 09/24/2012 03:12 CDT

We're not talking about a return to the Dark Ages in Science are we? Its only a 1/12th cut in spending. This means there will be less public support for scientific research. Our "lights" may dim as a result but the gap may also be filled by the private sector or the amateur scientist. The worst case scenario is that we will have to look for ways to do more with less.

z3n0n: 09/24/2012 03:40 CDT

The across-the-board cuts are what's bad about sequestration. We could probably be a little more choosy about what is funded, less junk science and risky ventures. It may also take longer to decide and require more expertise. Is Congress up to the task?

Casey Dreier (TPS): 09/24/2012 05:18 CDT

@z3n0n: You're right in that the most destructive thing about sequestration is that it's applied indiscriminately. Your other statement, though, assumes that there is such a dearth of science funding that low-quality projects are common. The grant-approval process is an arduous, very thorough system precisely because there is so little money to go around compared to the research demand.

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