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Sequester calls for smarter grant process, less venture capitalism

With the sequester in full effect, there are expected to be a number of cuts to new grants across many of the major government agencies, including the National Science Foundation.  

I. Big Cuts in Store

The NSF is expected to see a 5 percent cut, which will kill about 1,000 grants.  The U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) are expected to take around a 5 percent cut as well.

Amid that kind of cutting one has to prioritize what stays and what goes.  I think most DailyTech readers would agree that research is very important.  As a part of the budget, science accounts for only a small portion of spending, versus public services (education, social security, welfare, roads, etc.) and defense spending.

National budget
Science is a pretty small percent of the total budget (a few percent).

But if research must be cut, we better cut wisely.  And to do that, we need to make a smarter grant process.

Some projects -- like particle accelerators or space travel -- may be expensive, but are very important.  Other projects clearly are cheaper, but questionable.

II. Duck Penises? Questionable Grants Come in Several Forms

Let's examine some questionable grants that have gained attention and what's wrong with them.

Grant: NSF SBIR-1152672
Amount: $516,000
This Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR)Phase II project is designed to commercialize a consumer self-serve, automated kiosk for the evaluation, buy back, and collection of used electronics directly from consumers.
Layman's terms:
It's an ATM that pays you cash for used electronics
What's wrong:
This is venture capitalism.  The government needs to be paying for the kind of research that industry figures are not interested in paying for, not investing in projects whose proprietors could get funding from industry sources.  This is better fodder for the Shark Tank than for NSF.

Grant: NSF SBIR-1014075/SBIR-1127567
Amount: $149,600 / $500,000 USD = $659,600 USD (total)
This Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase I project will develop software to prevent the manipulation of consumer reviews of websites and online businesses.

This Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase II project will develop software to automatically detect a broad spectrum of websites that are fraudulent or otherwise harmful to consumers. Much work has been done on specific software capable of detecting websites hosting malware or engaged in phishing. However, software does not yet exist which can detect a broader array of harmful websites, including those selling counterfeits, selling illegal drugs, and hosting weight-loss scams, to name just a few.
Layman's terms:
The project started as a database to compile consumer reviews from various platforms, trying to figure out a way to filter out automatically biased reviews.  Perhaps realizing the infeasibility of that goal, the project completely shifted directions to a publicly hosted blacklist for sites deemed as "scams". 
What's wrong:
The grant connects the dots questionably between online fraud statistics (which typically refers to spam, phishing, etc.) and fraudulent reviews (whose "damage" are not the direct subject of these statistics).  The second submission changes the purpose the site to a general fraud prevention site.  It claims this doesn't exist -- well it does (see SpamHaus).

Again, this is a (rather confused) venture capitalist project that shouldn't have received one grant, let alone two.

Grant: NSF SES-1056580 
Amount: $120,000 USD
School: Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Our project aims to clarify how evidence is used to test cosmological theories that predict the existence of the Multiverse. Testing the predictions of recent cosmological theories has become a challenging and highly active topic at the cutting-edge of modern cosmology. Perhaps more than any discovery in recent scientific history, the mystery of dark energy has forced the scientific community to reconsider what constitutes a valid scientific theory. Such discoveries raise difficult questions at the boundary between astrophysics and the philosophy of science, which is precisely where this research project is located.
Layman's terms:
This work takes issue with alleged bias towards traditional physics theories, while seeking to chat about the controversial and widely disregarded multiverse theory.
What's wrong:
First, it's questionable to put this grant as a social sciences grant -- it appears to be a physics discussion.  Second, the multiverse theory while fascinating fodder for science fiction and comic books is widely disregarded as too poorly formulated/theorized to be sound research within our current understanding of the universe.  
Multiverse: Good for comics -- but grants? Questionable at best. [Image Source: DC Comics]

Maybe someday we'll get there, but better to shelve this kind of grant until then.

Grant:  NSF SES-0524539
Amount: $79,988 USD
School: Duke University
This project brings together social scientists and engineers to develop a predictive theory of social organization, as a conglomerate of mating flows that morph in time to flow more easily (people. goods, money, information). A team of Duke social scientists and engineers will explore a series of topics that will define a new research direction: the constructal theory of social dynamics. Examples are the multi-scale (organized) distribution of living settlements, the occurrence of multi-scale flow structure inside each settlement, 'development' as the relation between fast-flowing societies and advancement and wealth, migration patterns, and globalization. The team will organize a 2-year faculty/graduate student seminar with speakers from the US and abroad on social organization theory. The team will write the first papers on the constructal theory of social dynamics, and will define the research area that should be explored with greater force in the future. Funds are requested for the work of organizing the seminar, and for travel and lodging for the 12 speakers over the two years.
Layman's terms:
Somehow wants to assess the "big picture" of how resources are distributed... this would morph into a study on why some teams dominate the NCAA Basketball Tournament brackets, based on the size of winning athletes.
What's wrong:
This is actually pretty interesting research and did get published.  But the question is whether it is really worth spending taxpayer dollars on.  Couldn't a Duke University booster paid for this, maybe?

Grant:  NSF IOS-0920344
Amount: $384,949 USD
School: Yale University
Conflict between the sexes over control of fertilization is expected to be widespread among organisms, but its evolutionary consequences are still poorly understood particularly in vertebrate animals. Waterfowl have complex breeding systems that include female partner preferences based on elaborate male plumage and courtship display, and unsolicited reproductive attempts by males other than the female's chosen partner. Female ducks show resistance behaviors and anatomies that have coevolved with male coercion. Ducks are ideally suited to study the evolution of sexual conflict and the evolution of reproductive structures. 
Layman's terms:
The study looks at duck genitalia and mating habits.

What's wrong:
Again this work is interesting from a pure science perspective and the authors appear to be relatively productive.  But the question is whether it's appropriate to give a third of a million dollars to this kind of project in such tight fiscal times.  Maybe a smaller grant would have been appropriate, but this seems exorbitant given the societal impact of the research.

III. Three Steps Towards a Better Grant Process

Patrick Clemins, director of the R&D Budget and Policy Program for the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) wrote in a recent report, "Ultimately, the decision as to what constitutes 'transformative' or 'potentially transformative' [research] should be left to the scientific community rather than Congress."

That is certainly true.  I think, though, that the current grant system does suffer some fundamental structural issues that get in the way of science though.

1. Remove Institutional Bias

Bigger name universities tend to get grants, even when the proposals sound more tenuous or appear to be in the wrong funding category.  A blind grant system, in which the author/college go unlisted, could help this.

2. Cut Venture Capitalism

Much of the SBIR grant system would be better shifted into the world of venture capitalism.  Good products will be funded, in most cases, while bad ones will perish.  But ultimately in times of federal belt-tightening it's undesirable to have the federal government essentially playing VC gambles with taxpayer dollars.

3. Look at the Big Picture

Duck penises may be fascinating to biology experts, but generally these research topics seem unlikely to yield significant societal progress.  One possible solution would be to assemble panels of five researchers from other fields to review the merits of a series of grants within a single field, ranking them from most important to least important.  Collate the results and kill the least important grant proposals.  This would help grants reflect their true importance, rather than niche interest.

By instituting changes #1 and #3 and then trimming the SBIR budget significantly, much of the damage done by the budget cuts would be absorbed.  The SBIR savings would minimize the cuts to pure research, while the other changes would make sure that much of the remaining cuts were made to proposals that were either bad (for various reasons) or less important.

Source: ArsTechnica

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Vacation much?
By espaghetti on 4/2/13, Rating: 0
RE: Vacation much?
By BRB29 on 4/2/2013 9:32:31 AM , Rating: 5
The president actually doesn't have that much free time and their whole family lives a very stressful life for his term(s). Imagine having to force yourself to be "perfect" because you're constantly being judged by every newspaper, magazine and tv show. Whatever vacation time he has is the same as other federal employees. Most likely, he doesn't even use most of his vacation time. Just because he's president and you expect a lot of him, doesn't mean he doesn't deserve taking some time off. And yes, a whole secret service team has to be with him but that's not really his choice.

Some people have some very unrealistic expectations for some of our key leadership positions sometimes. You should really look at how congress is abusing your funds. They can call recess whenever they feel like for weeks and months and still gets paid like they were working full time.

That being said, I still don't agree with everything Obama does but I think he was a better choice than the crazies that were running against him. I would've voted Republican if they weren't such a whacked circus this past few years.

RE: Vacation much?
By ebakke on 4/2/2013 9:38:51 AM , Rating: 1
Look, I'll be the first to say that anyone in that position deserves as much time off as they need/want. I think the OP was making the point that the president can take a day off and relax without spending $20M in our money to fly to Hawaii. The White House, or even Camp David are a fraction of the cost.

RE: Vacation much?
By BRB29 on 4/2/2013 10:03:23 AM , Rating: 2
It doesn't cost $20mil for him to go to hawaii. Why would you want to vacation at the White House? that's where he works and lives!
So are you telling me that you would go on vacation in your house? or at your office?
I am 100% sure he would rather go wherever he wants and pay for it himself if he could. If anything, it's probably annoying as supergluing your fingers, that there's a team of people around every corner watching you. And you cannot go vacation internationally or anywhere the secret service team thinks they cannot fully secure. Basically, go through an approval process.
The president does have to pay for his expenses. Although it seems like most things are free but it is free for a reason. Everything has to be checked and secured as his safety is worth way more than the impact of losing his life. The economic impact and fear to the public would cause billions and maybe even trillions of damages. Thats not counting how bad we would look on the international level that encourages more malicious attacks from countries like NK an China. You can't blame the man for things he doesn't have a choice in.

RE: Vacation much?
By ebakke on 4/2/2013 10:15:59 AM , Rating: 1
Correct, an individual trip doesn't cost $20M. But the airfare alone is $3.2M for one trip: And he's been there at least 4 times. So my $20M was a rough guess for the totality of his expenses. But the point is the same. Just the Air Force One costs for one trip will cover the grants listed in this article - which is the OP's point.
So are you telling me that you would go on vacation in your house?
I do take a day off work without traveling. I don't make enough money (or have a source of someone else's) that I can use to travel every single time I take a day off.

You are entirely missing the OP's (and my) point and instead are rambling about unrelated things.

RE: Vacation much?
By BRB29 on 4/2/2013 10:34:29 AM , Rating: 2
That's great but it's still not his choice. I'm 100% sure that if he could just pay the $1k out of his pocket for a flight like the rest of us then he will.
Are you telling me that the president should only vacation in his White House for 8 years?
That trip estimate is biased because they did not calculate the difference between having Air Force One sit idle vs using it. The cost is actually not that much more. They have an air force unit dedicated to that plane and they are getting paid salary. The main difference in cost being fuel and per diem for the crew. So the $3.2M cost for one trip is not accurate.

How they calculated that $180k is taking total cost(all employee salary, maintenance cost, plane cost, etc...) for the entire year and divide that by the number of hours the plane flew a year. Since the flight to Hawaii takes 9 hours each way they just multiplied 180k X 18 hrs.

Naturally, that formula would blow up the cost per hour if the President didn't use Air Force one as much. The fact is, his flight didn't put that much additional variable cost(fuel + per diem) to the fixed cost that is required anyways.

Do some research and stop believing everything people the news tell you.

RE: Vacation much?
By ebakke on 4/2/13, Rating: 0
RE: Vacation much?
By BRB29 on 4/2/2013 11:10:41 AM , Rating: 2
Dude. You don't get it.

Even if he doesn't use it then you still have to pay the other 2.8 mil of fixed cost and nothing is moving. And for the last time, it's not his choice he has to use Air Force One. In fact, Air Force One is preferred way to travel because it is the SAFEST method of travel for the President.
Did you know that flights like that are also used for training purposes also?

He has no choice and you have no solution. Now you are just starting to sound like someone who complains but never contribute to anything. As a project manager, I would try my best to get rid of you if you were in my team.

RE: Vacation much?
By ebakke on 4/2/2013 11:15:12 AM , Rating: 1
Surely you're just trolling me now. You can't possibly be making the argument that $425k in fuel costs don't matter or don't exist because other money is spent elsewhere. Of course there are fixed costs, which is why I wasn't arguing the fix costs... I was arguing the most obvious variable costs.

But it's clear you have no intention of having a rational (and certainly not logical) discussion. You're just defending the President blindly, because... well, shit, I have no idea why.

RE: Vacation much?
By BRB29 on 4/2/2013 11:28:26 AM , Rating: 3
First you claimed it cost 3.2 mil.

Then you were enlightened with fixed cost and lowered it down to 400k.

Now you're saying 400k is a lot after the value has been reduced by over 80%.

I'm not blindly defending anyone but statistical truth. You are nitpicking because 400k is a drop in the bucket compared to the 200mil it cost to keep the president secured annually. Again, he has no choice in which method of transportation he take.

If he decided to take a vacation in VA beach for example, the cost would actually be almost the same. If they drove him there then it would actually cost more than an Air Force One flight.

You don't know your numbers, you are sounding like a keyboard conspiracy theorist

RE: Vacation much?
By ebakke on 4/2/2013 11:47:45 AM , Rating: 1
I didn't claim it cost $3.2M. I simply restated the DoD's own estimates. It does cost that. You're claiming $3.2 includes some fixed costs, and I threw you a bone by operating under the assumption (for your benefit, not mine) that all but the fuel costs were fixed costs. Even under that scenario, it still costs $425k in fuel to fly a 747-200 between DC and Hawaii. You keep trying to claim that it doesn't matter because other things cost more, and because he must fly AFO. Those last two facts are irrelevant. If he chooses to vacation in Hawaii, it costs us $3.2M in travel expenses of which $425k is fuel. It's really that simple.

Whatever. This is a waste of my time.

RE: Vacation much?
By BRB29 on 4/2/2013 12:08:16 PM , Rating: 3
and if it doesnt choose the to vacation then AFO still has to pay the other 2.8 mil. That is a fixed cost and you seem to acknowledge or ignore it whenever it's convenient to you. Most of the cost comes from maintenance, employees, readiness, training, etc... The flying part is actually the cheap part.
And I told you how they came up with that number. They can't truthfully say the trip only cost 400k and ignore the fixed cost associated with it.

You're right though, it is a waste of your time because your information you were trying to convey was not entirely accurate and makes little sense.

RE: Vacation much?
By sorry dog on 4/3/2013 10:57:34 AM , Rating: 2
On the variable cost.... don't forget all the planning expenses like sending a security and logistics team to Hawaii first to plan every minute, every bag of peanuts, and every potential sniper position on trip.... and then you got all the costs of inconvenience to everyone else there like all the other planes burning fuel in the pattern while AFO is on approach or personnel needed from local enforcement to coordinate with secret service...

...anyway, each trip has a long long list of things that much be done first before the traveling circus goes one mile.

Ya know, it's entirely symbolic, but if the president wants government cuts to be taken seriously, if he were to take a personal cut somewhere, he would gain quite a few points in the leadership department. But that's about as likely as seeing Feinstien on the cover of Playboy.

RE: Vacation much?
By superflex on 4/3/2013 1:45:01 PM , Rating: 2
Are you aware we, the taxpayers, just payed for Sasha and Malia to go to both Atlantis in the Bahamas and to Sun Valley Utah for their spring break last week? Four days in the Bahamas followed by four in Utah. Isn't that excessive, especially in these times?
Of course, you probably didn't know this because the WH asked the reports of their travels to be scrubbed.
They didn't fly commercial either. They used a taxpayer funded Gulfstream V for both trips and had secret service vehicles flown to both locations as well.
Is there some savings I'm missing by having the kids have a spring break in two posh locations I'm not aware of?
Don't forget, Marth'a Vineyard is coming up in a few weeks. The rental alone in MV is $5M. Chump change, I know.

RE: Vacation much?
By invidious on 4/2/2013 12:51:06 PM , Rating: 2
The high cost is attributed to air force one and all of the other secret service costs, which is confirmed in your link. So most of the cost is applicable regardless of where he vacations. So he might as well get our moneys worth and go some place nice.

At least he is staying in the USA and not giving tourism money to foriegners. So at its worst it is still stimulus money. I didn't vote for him, but this isn't something that I think we should be getting on his case about.

RE: Vacation much?
By superflex on 4/3/2013 1:54:30 PM , Rating: 2
Michelle and the girls spent $467,000 taxpayer dollars in Spain in 2010 and just spent 4 days in the Bahamas this year. Malia went to Mexico last year at a taxpayer cost of $115,000
Facts are hard.

RE: Vacation much?
By BRB29 on 4/3/2013 2:50:17 PM , Rating: 2
Yes it cost a lot to protect any President and their family. This has never changed since the secret service, AFO, etc... existed to protect them. You make it sound like they actually spent that money. It may seem luxurious to you but I would rather have freedom to do whatever I want then restricted to what the secret service allowed me to do....even if they paid for everything.
You should really look up Clinton and Bush's costs of vacation if you want to see extravagance.

RE: Vacation much?
By superflex on 4/3/2013 4:11:58 PM , Rating: 3
We weren't operating a 16 trillion dollar debt with 15% real unemployment during their tenures.
The mantra of this administration is spending for me, just not for thee.

RE: Vacation much?
By Fujikoma on 4/4/2013 12:06:25 PM , Rating: 2
You seem to miss out on the fact that the President's yearly income for this position is paltry compared to what a lot of business CEOs make. Even including his vacation expenses (wife and kids included) doesn't really make up for what he should be making for such a position.
You also seem to forget that his wife does serve as an unofficial embassador for him and that travel to foreign countries does help with relations.

RE: Vacation much?
By GotThumbs on 4/2/13, Rating: 0
RE: Vacation much?
By BRB29 on 4/2/2013 10:13:56 AM , Rating: 3
Sorry but this is your political views. I was referring to the fact that he deserves a vacation just like any of us. He probably works well past a regular 8 hr work day.

Whether you think he is trying hard or hardly trying is a baseless opinion. I neither agree or disagree with you because I don't have any reliable confirmed information on that.

All I know is that Obama does try to complete the agenda he promised. Most of it seems to be blocked by the Republican party in Congress. You can get proof of this because the government has a website to track bills and laws.

Please don't quote specific phrase in my comment to twist what I was saying and taking it out of context. For example, if I said "I beat my wife at chess", you can easily quote "I beat my wife" and then call me an abusive husband.

RE: Vacation much?
By Mitch101 on 4/2/2013 10:31:50 AM , Rating: 2
Im vacationing at home right now and I work well past 8 hours. One would think in a down economy he might want to show a little bit of a connection with the rest of the country by doing the same.

RE: Vacation much?
By BRB29 on 4/2/2013 10:54:00 AM , Rating: 5
The president has it good i guess but it's definitely nothing luxurious. Any executive in even a small multi million dollar company will have it much better than he does. For the most powerful man on the planet, he really doesn't even have it as good as the leader of a poor country like NK, Iran or Thailand etc...

The guy worked hard, got an education, used his ambition and drive to get to where he is. Why are you guys hating on him? If you were President, I know you wouldn't want to live like Joe Schmoe that did average his whole life.

In this country, how far you want to get in life depends on your drive and ambition. If you are in a crappy job with crappy pay then it's mostly your fault. Companies never stopped hiring. They just hired less and are much more selective because there's more to choose from so of course they will choose the best can they find. You can blame HR and supervisors for that if you can't find a decent job.

RE: Vacation much?
By Rott3nHIppi3 on 4/2/13, Rating: 0
RE: Vacation much?
By Mitch101 on 4/2/2013 7:17:40 PM , Rating: 2
I do make good pay but I dont take the money I make for granted nor do I spend it unwisely.

Ill work real hard for 40+ years not hap hazardly for 4 years and if were to create a trillion dollar deficit at my job I would be fired or the company would go under or at least have the dignity to realize Im not benefiting my company in a positive manner and step down from my position. Good luck getting him to do it and sadly I was for him getting elected the first time.

If it costs 3.5 million just to fly the president somewhere then maybe he ought be humble and state he would rather that 3.5 million go to helping a few less fortunate than himself and simply state Ill take a vacation at the end of my term.

RE: Vacation much?
By Ammohunt on 4/2/2013 11:28:27 AM , Rating: 3
Most of it seems to be blocked by the Republican party in Congress.

Be grateful for that! this country might last a few years longer! giving the rest of us time to prepare for the coming hard times. Obama is no leader and never will be! he is just the head lemming wandering around looking for a cliff with an ocean view.

RE: Vacation much?
By Techslave on 4/2/2013 1:15:19 PM , Rating: 2
You would rather have My Pet Goat, we know.

RE: Vacation much?
By KFZ on 4/2/2013 12:01:56 PM , Rating: 2
Ah, yes, let's not pick on the poor President, and you people putting so much pressure on him to, you know, actually do his job? Shame on you. Actually we don't know that he's constantly working, and that's probably because of the way he presents himself. Just who you are kidding with this sensitivity crap when the man loves the camera and the opportunity to babble, boast and elbow his critics in campaign-style speeches?

I'll add that much of the President's job is meetings and luxurious travel. Oh, woe his he.

While very stressful and Congress is perhaps more deserving of criticism, this is ridiculous assertion that the position deserves a vacation a month in luxury, and when compared to the sparse vacation days most people ration throughout the year to catch up on sleep, fix things around the house or actually spend time with their children, if they can manage that, people who work just as hard if not harder to be superheroes and not cave to daily stresses that threaten to eat their souls while earning a FRACTION of pay and NONE of the benefits of this elitist President, you start to come off as an apologist but really just divert the entire issue that this President and his administration is one of the worst examples ever set for its respective nation.

Barack Obama, his family, his administration and party leadership are just as detached from America as the GOP. You're ability to deflect is nothing new, but to brazenly argue that it's these Republican crazies you had no choice but to avoid is just laughably delusional. At least it would be laughable if it weren't so sad.

RE: Vacation much?
By BRB29 on 4/2/2013 12:44:06 PM , Rating: 2
Yes sure, everyone should get paid as much as the president and have all the same benefits as he does. *rolls eyes

be gone with your anti Obama campaign. The only deflection being made is you turning a budget topic into an anti Obama campaign.

RE: Vacation much?
By Cluebat on 4/2/2013 1:35:07 PM , Rating: 2
The topic is Sequestration priorities.

This is all about Obama.

You sure spend a lot of your time here defending him from facts.

RE: Vacation much?
By espaghetti on 4/2/2013 9:41:11 PM , Rating: 2
Take that bleeding heart crap for a walk.

Imagine having to force yourself to be "perfect" because you're constantly being judged by every newspaper, magazine and tv show. Whatever vacation time he has is the same as other federal employees. Most likely, he doesn't even use most of his vacation time. Just because he's president and you expect a lot of him, doesn't mean he doesn't deserve taking some time off.

Whoop-de-doo! What? did Fox news tell on him? Did talk radio disapprove of a policy?

Who does he have to "force himself to be perfect" for?
These fools at every other news outlet drool all over themselves like teenage girls at a rock concert.
They've never written anything scathing about this boy.

My point was, if the article was concerned about the effects of sequestration, maybe they should've made a damn budget.
A real budget like responsible adults.
This is a joke government and when the hyper inflation smacks this country in the head, we'll use CB's and HAM radios to continue this argument, if we can find electricity.

Cut It All
By ebakke on 4/2/13, Rating: 0
RE: Cut It All
By BRB29 on 4/2/2013 9:39:23 AM , Rating: 1
But this is not a donation. This is a grant paid for by our tax dollars. This is also an editorial and only his opinion. He is right on a few things. Some schools gets favoritism and some scientists has much more pull than others. Some of these research can easily be done be Google with very little expense. They should really talk to them.

RE: Cut It All
By ebakke on 4/2/2013 9:43:04 AM , Rating: 2
Yeah, I understand what this article is and where the money comes from. I'm making the argument that grants should go away and be replaced by individual donations. In my scenario we fund only the things that people actually care about.

RE: Cut It All
By BRB29 on 4/2/13, Rating: -1
RE: Cut It All
By ebakke on 4/2/2013 10:30:26 AM , Rating: 3
people are motivated by success of making money
Some are, sure. Arguably most or all are, at least partially. But that isn't the only thing that motivates people.
The government's responsibility is to point the industry in the right direction and subsidize the cost of research.
That's your belief. I could not more strongly disagree.
So relying on individual donation will not work because they won't receive enough funding.
I disagree. I argue they will receive exactly the right level of funding. But then again, I don't claim to know what's "enough" funding for every endeavor. And I know no politician can do so either. I believe the "right" level of funding is the amount in which people will voluntarily give themselves.

RE: Cut It All
By BRB29 on 4/2/13, Rating: -1
RE: Cut It All
By Ammohunt on 4/2/2013 11:31:00 AM , Rating: 2
Bro, it's not my belief, it's practically written in stone in government regulations. You can also find it in your micro and macroeconomics books.

What books are those? the ones titled "Karl Marx's guide to Government Controlled Economy"? you really need to change your reading list; start with Atlas Shrugged.

RE: Cut It All
By BRB29 on 4/2/2013 11:41:03 AM , Rating: 2
When did subsidizing research become communism?

My macroeconomics tells me exactly what I stated above. The government grants Agencies receives and gives out pretty such stated that as their mission. In fact, DOE hands out lots of research subsidies for clean energy solutions. You even earn tax credit for buying hybrids. You get hundreds of millions if you do research into hydrogen energy.

I don't know how much more proof i can give you. Maybe you actually have to really open a book this time?

RE: Cut It All
By Ammohunt on 4/2/2013 12:27:29 PM , Rating: 2
Well you are either just simply ignorant or just being contrary for the hell of it. Government subsidizing business or industries is indirectly the state running the economy (Economic Socialism) by picking winners and losers. The free market naturally culls bad ideas. The government is the antithesis to free enterprise and lately freedom itself. Better get a clue soon your time is running out.

RE: Cut It All
By BRB29 on 4/2/13, Rating: -1
RE: Cut It All
By Ammohunt on 4/2/2013 2:26:56 PM , Rating: 3
Ah my first guess was correct! simply ignorant, with a shade of plain dumb.

RE: Cut It All
By maugrimtr on 4/3/2013 9:09:06 AM , Rating: 3
Free market my ass...what have you been smoking?

The free market will never send people into space, erect gigantic telescopes, run particle accelerators, combat religious fanaticism around scientific pursuits or do anything in the arena of basic research unless it achieves one result. Profit. CASH.

All known democracies spend taxes on basic research. Why? Because Humans are curious social animals and we like to know stuff. It is that need beyond mere profit that drove us up the evolutionary ladder to dominate this planet. The free market is a means to an end, not the end itself.

Knowing the mating habits of ducks might appear ridiculous, but the underlying point is an area of research into the evolution of sexual organs. That knowledge is for its own sake - it won't create a cashflow but it might make our understanding of Evolution that bit more complete. A LOT of basic research will never turn a profit. We still do it. We should do it. If we don't do it, then we're missing the effing point of what we are. We're an evolutionary marvel - and we need to get off this planet before a giant meteor wipes us out...

Speaking of which, there was no profit motive to studying paleontology/geological history which informed evolution and let us know about what happens when big rocks hit Earth... Unless you count the profit from Jurassic Park movies.

The first three or so grant examples in the post are different - those are profit oriented which could easily be done by private enterprise which is the only party likely to benefit from them. Why the heck should we be funding THAT? What's the goal? Free money to the free market

I'd rather my tax money be spent on studying duck mating rituals or throwing a few more dollars at NASA's asteroid tracking/interception/deflection projects or shooting up foamy materials to see which better handles the stress of earthquakes. Stuff that actually matters or broadens our knowledge as a civilisation.

RE: Cut It All
By Ammohunt on 4/4/2013 1:16:50 PM , Rating: 2
Its not a sin to make money and you are just plain wrong to assume all our advances didn't have a profit motivation involved somewhere. The "for benefit of mankind" argument is a lie taught in college campuses to kids with no understanding of human nature. Rational self interest is the primary ingredient for any advance we make; Government stifles that at every turn.

RE: Cut It All
By smnoamls on 4/3/2013 2:14:19 AM , Rating: 2
"The free market naturally culls bad ideas".
This broke your argument. Its the same as saying "One million people can't be wrong".
Natural forces, economic or otherwise, are almost always wrong. They pull in the direction of personal interest and current views, often dictated by influential few.
The ability to see beyond current needs and cater for the needs of future generations is almost always counter intuitive and very mentally dissonant. All developed countries have academic government offices which try, via committee ,decide which research is needed for the generations ahead. And they always spice it up with "off the rails" research, because thats how progress is done. By researching the fringe and unknown. I was lucky enough to be part of such a committee for a few years back in Uni, and let me tell you, the amount of thought and research which goes into deciding which research is done is immense.

RE: Cut It All
By JediJeb on 4/3/2013 1:55:46 PM , Rating: 2
All developed countries have academic government offices which try, via committee ,decide which research is needed for the generations ahead. And they always spice it up with "off the rails" research, because thats how progress is done

So governments are not made up of people, they are some magical entity that exists on a plane above common man?

Governments are just people like everyone else. Why would a group of bureaucrats be capable of making better decisions than a group of business people? Both will have a bias towards their own agenda and neither will have purely altruistic motives. Governments are biased to making the decisions that keep the individuals in that governing body in power, while businesses are biased to making decisions that keep them profitable(or in power just as those in governments do).

Why do so many people seem to think that the "Government" is like some wise and all knowing Oz who will take care of them with the best of intentions? Hint, if you get to the end of the story you discover that the Wizard of Oz is really a fraud. People who put their faith in government are just as unwise as those who put their faith in business. Government and business are merely two sides of the same coin, and the bigger either becomes, the less capable they are of properly serving their constituents or clients.

RE: Cut It All
By ebakke on 4/2/2013 11:38:19 AM , Rating: 1
It's painfully apparent you and I have already found whatever value we can get out of "discussing" these issues. I bid you an average day.

RE: Cut It All
By BRB29 on 4/2/13, Rating: -1
RE: Cut It All
By ClownPuncher on 4/2/2013 12:55:44 PM , Rating: 3
You're a duck penis.

RE: Cut It All
By Techslave on 4/2/2013 1:18:19 PM , Rating: 2
No, you're a duck penis.

RE: Cut It All
By ClownPuncher on 4/2/2013 1:30:23 PM , Rating: 2

RE: Cut It All
By Ammohunt on 4/2/2013 5:39:12 PM , Rating: 2
DUCK! Penis!

RE: Cut It All
By HostileEffect on 4/4/2013 12:55:59 AM , Rating: 1
What would possess you to come to these god forsaken islands!? I've lived in Hawaii for the last three years and I'll finally be able to leave this dump at the end of the next!

As for Obama, I wish he would vacation somewhere else, better yet, stop vacationing and fix the country. I can't even cross a street going to the exchange without being badgered by some kind of security.

RE: Cut It All
By Paj on 4/3/2013 4:17:09 AM , Rating: 2
That's your belief. I could not more strongly disagree.

He has a point though - government sponsored research has real value. Where would we be without the Manhattan Project, or ARPAnet?

Outside the US, you have the French and German governments who retain state ownership in their national train companies, becoming world leaders in high speed rail and exporting the technology overseas, earning a healthy profit.

And the CSIRO in Australia, which is a government funded organisation, has made many hundreds of millions from its patents on wi-fi and polymer banknotes, as well as many other inventions.

Closing off sources of funding for purely ideological reasons is short sighted. A balanced approach yields greater results, and can provide real benefits to the taxpayer if its managed properly.

RE: Cut It All
By wookie1 on 4/2/2013 6:57:43 PM , Rating: 2
Before what? Capitalist economies do allocate our scarce resources according to what provides the highest returns. Government just decides what projects help cement the power of the politicians using taxpayer money to do so. What is your justification for forcing me to pay for duck penis research at the point of a gun?

RE: Cut It All
By sorry dog on 4/3/2013 10:28:06 AM , Rating: 3
As somebody with a couple degrees in Econ, let me tell you that it's well accepted that your everyday supply and demand free market models do NOT always do a good job of predicting capital allocation once you get into smaller, individual markets.

With that said, if somebody has a possibly worthwhile research project, how do we decide which ones are most deserving of funding?
...and if private markets don't have very good tools to figure this question out, the government probably doesn't do any better.

BUT, the one answer to these questions I think sorta sucks is the research just won't get funding.

Also, considering that the real driver of governmental budget troubles is transfer payments like Medicare and Social Security cutting scientific research is as best a feel good measure.

It's kinda your broke because your house payment takes of 70% of your check, but you decide to cut your internet back to dial up to save $20.
So you did save a little bit of money, but you didn't really fix your budget problem and your worse off in the long run because it takes longer to figure out things since your internet sucks....

RE: Cut It All
By wookie1 on 4/3/2013 12:18:11 PM , Rating: 1
Markets may not be perfect, but at least both participants in the transaction are acting on their own free will.

Government beaurocrats don't have any incentive to make decisions that are the best long-term, and they can't possibly know how to best balance the needs and desires of over 300 million people. Given that, I'd prefer to leave these things to the private sector.

RE: Cut It All
By Strunf on 4/3/2013 7:45:31 AM , Rating: 2
There are a few problems with it

It would only work for small projects, if you want to do some research and you have to build the facilities upfront you would have a hard time to get any money without the actual facilities.

If every single scientist that want grants for their research would have to go public and ask for it there would too many of them.

Most people (even those interested in giving) would be in no position to know if there's any basis for this research or if it's just a money trap, this would favor researchers that are good at getting people attention (like politicians) at the expense of the others, and most researchers aren't that good when speaking to the average joe.

If you think this is bad
By BRB29 on 4/2/2013 8:56:04 AM , Rating: 2
Check out the contracts DoD or any agency hands out. It's like saying "here's a ton of money, we hope you give us good service please?"

RE: If you think this is bad
By Cluebat on 4/2/2013 11:28:09 AM , Rating: 1
Any examples Einstein?

Defense spending, which is mandated by the Constitution is dwarfed by social entitlements. Which are not.

RE: If you think this is bad
By BRB29 on 4/2/2013 11:34:56 AM , Rating: 2
I work with federal employees and contractors. I also did contracting approvals for many years. I will not discuss anything over the internet but I know some contracts I've seen are very questionable. Others, we didn't have a choice because of regulations and policies.
For example, we are obligated to buy certain products from specific companies first because it is owned by a minority, veteran, woman that hired disabled people. The products they put out sucks and breaks almost instantly but that is our first choice if we were to buy those products.

I thought I knew the Defense Acquisition and Federal Acquisition regulations pretty well and it has nothing to do with the Constitution.

RE: If you think this is bad
By Cluebat on 4/2/2013 12:20:29 PM , Rating: 2
I am one of those guys. Yes there have been cases of corruption, It is much less than it was years ago. We have gone from requiring everything to be made in America to taking our chances with "COTS". That has been a big money saver, but makes us more vulnerable.

DoD doesn't have stupid money these days. We are just getting by and praying that we are not the next facility on the chopping block.

Sorry. I get loud when people are always offering up defense as the cure to our spending problems.

RE: If you think this is bad
By BRB29 on 4/2/2013 1:10:57 PM , Rating: 2
Of course there's a lot less corruption than years ago. We're in a crunch, people actually review these contracts thoroughly now instead of a screen and approval.

You get loud because your paycheck is on the line. I hope you get to keep your position but it doesn't changed the fact that there were a lot of wasteful spending. I'm not just talking about DoD either.

BTW, I've seen the actual work of these contracts overseas and let's just say scam is almost an understatement. I hate this checklist attitudes contractors and their companies have.

RE: If you think this is bad
By Cluebat on 4/2/2013 11:30:00 AM , Rating: 2
RE: If you think this is bad
By BRB29 on 4/2/2013 11:58:04 AM , Rating: 1
So what is your point?
That the government gives back most of the money it received to the people?
How do you tell someone who paid social securities all their life that they won't receive any? nor will they receive medicaid?
How do you tell someone who suddenly lost their job that they won't be receiving their unemployment insurance? Did you also know that unemployment payments are counted as part of the GDP because it is an income?

Did you also know that many economist and statisticians put out warnings about social security problems in the future while Bush was in office but he lowered the social security tax anyways? Yes he lowered from 6.2 to 4.2%. He made a bad problem worse. And now since that law expired, you think Obama raised your taxes much more than he actually had.

I'm surprised to see that no one has yet to point out the hundreds of billions that corrupt politicians gave out to large corporation for their own agenda. Of course, you won't see that on a pie chart about gov spending because it's considered a tax credit and tax deductible.

RE: If you think this is bad
By Cluebat on 4/2/13, Rating: 0
RE: If you think this is bad
By BRB29 on 4/2/2013 12:50:37 PM , Rating: 2
Please refer to multiple research articles online about what really happened to cause the recession. Most of extra revenue was from a bubble about to burst. Guess what?, we're all paying for it now.
I don't feel like writing a whole macroeconomics lesson for you explaining everything so I'll give you some keywords so you can search for it yourself.
"bubble" "housing market" "bad banking policies" "defense spending" etc...

I thought it was pretty common knowledge by now what caused it but some people just don't want to accept it.

RE: If you think this is bad
By Cluebat on 4/2/2013 1:12:05 PM , Rating: 1
I have researched this, and unless you want to cite a reputable source I will not bother.

I have a feeling the research you are refering to is actually opinion with an axe to grind.

By GotThumbs on 4/2/2013 10:05:16 AM , Rating: 3

I still think we need to keep this site focused on tech, but I was pleased with the thoroughness and subject matter.

Well done and have a great day.

By Spookster on 4/3/2013 2:09:34 PM , Rating: 2
Jason is very thorough when it comes to penises.

So if it's not physics or engineering...cut it?
By Fox5 on 4/2/2013 8:50:44 AM , Rating: 2
While there is a certain practicality to that, it does go against the equal opportunity educational system, regardless of field, that we have.

By Dorkyman on 4/2/2013 5:53:48 PM , Rating: 2
But some fields are far more important to our future than others.

My issue is with the pie chart shown. It's just for the "discretionary" spending, meaning it ignores stuff like Social Security, Medicare, and other entitlements. Put those in the pie chart and they dwarf everything else.

I'm sure you saw in the news last week that a major report was done on the rampant abuse in the "disability" program. That's an annual $250 BILLION program. I say cut it by 2/3 and re-qualify everyone in order to kick out the freeloaders.

I am so glad...
By lagomorpha on 4/2/2013 10:19:56 AM , Rating: 3
...that this article wasn't about research into circumcised duck penises.

Cut Duck Penis Research, Not NASA

By Motoman on 4/2/2013 10:42:29 AM , Rating: 2
No love for Long Duk Dong?

Howard the Duck
By Lord 666 on 4/2/2013 10:53:48 AM , Rating: 2
Likes to f*ck

Cut Them All
By wempa on 4/2/2013 12:32:43 PM , Rating: 2

With our country being in its current awful state, these should all be cut. Seriously, when you are hurting, you keep only necessities. I'm pretty sure if these grants weren't funded, we'd all somehow find a way to live. Heck, even just temporarily suspending funding for the next 5 years would free up some money to be better spent.

Reminds me...
By Fujikoma on 4/2/2013 6:43:04 PM , Rating: 2
of Palin complaining about fly research without understanding what the research was really about. This article is just as vapid. Maybe the author should realize that they don't have an advanced understanding of evolutionary biology or physics and would be better served by putting more energy into researching the specifics of those grants.

By wookie1 on 4/2/2013 7:00:12 PM , Rating: 2
The government does carefully prioritize the cuts. They're designed to have a visible impact on services that people think are important, rather than the rest of the nonsense like this research you mention. That way, they can keep the gravy train rolling for the cronies and also continuously expand the scope and largesse of government. Why did you think they would prioritize any other way?

By random2 on 4/3/2013 11:32:09 PM , Rating: 2
Please if you are going to post things like pie graphs to support articles, please at least ensure your readers will be able to read them.

Political theater
By Cluebat on 4/2/2013 11:10:56 AM , Rating: 1
Crafted by "The One" in order to club the opposition over the head with it. What would be the point in cutting low visibility funding? That defeats the purpose of it's existence.

Meanwhile this has become the least transparent, most lawless, and laziest administration ever.

Where is the party at this week? San Francisco, right? More fundraisers and posh parties.

"Vista runs on Atom ... It's just no one uses it". -- Intel CEO Paul Otellini

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