Will science funding be revolutionized?

The National Science Foundation (NSF) would get a sweeping remake—including a new name, a huge infusion of cash, and responsibility for maintaining U.S. global leadership in innovation—under bipartisan bills that have just been introduced in both houses of Congress.

Many scientific leaders are thrilled that the bills call for giving NSF an additional $100 billion over 5 years to carry out its new duties. But some worry the legislation, if enacted, could compromise NSF’s historical mission to explore the frontiers of knowledge without regard to possible commercial applications.

The Endless Frontiers Act (S. 3832) proposes a major reorganization of NSF, creating a technology directorate that, within 4 years, would grow to more than four times the size of the entire agency’s existing $8 billion budget. NSF would be renamed the National Science and Technology Foundation, and both the science and technology arms would be led by a deputy reporting to the NSF director. (NSF now has a single deputy director; the slot has been unfilled since 2014.)


Passage of the legislation could significantly alter how NSF operates. In particular, agency officials would have the authority to adopt some of the management practices used by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) within the Department of Defense, known for its agility and focus on tangible, deadline-driven results. “The new [technology] directorate can run like DARPA if NSF wants it to,” says one university lobbyist familiar with Schumer’s thinking.

One provision would expand NSF’s ability to use outside experts hired for short stints. At DARPA, new program managers are expected to propose significant changes to the research portfolios of their predecessors, with the best new ideas receiving generous funding. In contrast, NSF’s core disciplinary programs change very little from year to year.

The bill has some degree of bipartisan support, and of course I will be following this issue.  Here is the full story, via J.


And your funding for free.

Seriously, isn't anyone getting tired of the fantasy world that many Americans seem to live in? The one where billions of dollars are picked from all the Dollar Trees dotting the landscape?

Meanwhile, after patenting the Higgs Boson, European physicists are rolling in cash.

The NSF these days mostly funds Woke Studies, "Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity Shortfalls among Vaccine Development Research Teams," stuff like that. Unless that is remedied and white and Asian men are allowed to do their work without harassment, scientific research will make no real progress.

Imagine what the world would be like today if public funding of research was possible and enabled the United Stated to develop the atomic bomb. Hawaii might still be an American territory.

I hope this novelty account sticks

Where is all this money coming from? Why not give the NSF a bazillion dollars? Or a gajillion? Have we finally reached the point where deficits don't matter at all?

Who will think of the children?

Theoretical economists have suggested funding for basic research could be raised from the population via a process known as "taxation".

Of course, this radical idea is unlikely to ever catch on. And just think about the downsides. If Nazi Germany had taxation they could have built multiple tanks.

So, deficits really don't matter. They certainly did not matter for the Nazis in the end. Odd how the German government of 1947 was able to use taxation, and yet was much, much less capable of building tanks (or anything, really) or funding basic research.

Decisions made in the present affect the future. Which is why wise people always eat their seed corn after the first frost.

“The name Pulitzer now means activism ... not ... truth.”

Andrew Sullivan


On September 28, 1980, nearly nine months and 52 bylines after her first day at the Post, “Jimmy’s World” was published on the front page. Cooke’s story, about an 8-year-old heroin addict, created an instant sensation—the 1980s equivalent of “going viral”—reprinted around the country and around the world. As DC Mayor Marion Barry and city health and police officials hustled to find the child and prosecute his guardian-tormentors, the Post stood fast behind its First Amendment right to protect its reporter from having to reveal the boy’s whereabouts. For this, the paper was heavily criticized, especially by black residents in the then-majority African-American city. Where journalists saw a blockbuster story, with bright writing and a deep social impact, civilians saw a child in need, and activists saw a captivating example of the black man’s burden. Jimmy was never found.

On April 13, 1981, Cooke was awarded a Pulitzer. She won after the well-intentioned Pulitzer committee, enthusiastic about both Cooke’s story and the possibility of awarding the first Pulitzer in journalism ever to an African-American woman, juggled her entry from the local-news category to the feature-writing category in order to assure her a prize.

Proud of its former employee, the Toledo Blade quickly prepared a story. It went to press at 8am. Later that morning, according to an exhaustive investigation by Post ombudsman Bill Green, Blade editors read biographical sketches of the Pulitzer winners that moved over the Associated Press wire. The sketches were based on the résumés submitted with the entries. The Blade’s bio for Janet, taken from its own personnel records, differed considerably. On her Pulitzer résumé, according to Post accounts, Cooke claimed to have graduated magna cum laude from Vassar College and to have received a master’s degree from the University of Toledo. From what the Blade knew, she’d attended Vassar only for her freshman year and received a bachelor of arts from the University of Toledo. Blade editors alerted the wire service.

No need to keep quoting - the Pulitzer was returned by the Post.

And let's not forget the Pulitzers awarded for the "deeply sourced, relentlessly reported coverage...that furthered the nation's understanding of Russian interference in the 2016 election and its connections to the Trump campaign"

Everything reported was wrong. Massively wrong. In the end, Russia spent less than $100K on useless Facebook ads and really wanted Hillary to win.

To pretend that $100K in facebook ads might sway an election, when Hillary's campaign was spending $1B, is ludicrous.

The real story here was a concerted effort from a previous administration and intelligence agencies to undo an election. THAT is a story. But our modern press shows nary a shred of curiosity in that, in spite of it happening under their nose.

The NYT still has the Walter Durante Pulitzer.

Or we could consider not applying pressure upon companies which develop revolutionary drugs to give them up for free/cost.

Maybe let the market work vs. empowering bureaucrats.

Why not let both work hand in hand? As discussed in the BMJ - "Our review of patents and supporting data found that a quarter (n=62) of all new products had documented late stage research contributions from a publicly supported research institution or spin-off company. Forty eight products (19% of all new drug approvals) had evidence of direct publicly supported research (table 1 and table 2). For all but one, the contributions were related to the drug’s initial discovery, synthesis, or other key intellectual property leading to a patentable invention. For 30 of these drugs, publicly supported research institutions directly held one or more of the key patents. Another seven drugs had direct publicly supported research origins, although the patents listed in the Orange Book were held by a spin-off company. The remainder of drugs with public support contributions was found through the drug monograph database and investigations of the drugs’ discovery and development histories. One of these drugs, benznidazole, a treatment for Chagas disease, is a distinct case because it received development support from the Drugs for Neglected Diseases Initiative and others, and is being sold on a “no profit no loss” basis.22 However, the drug was originally developed by Hoffman-La Roche in the 1970s, which then donated the rights to the drug to the Brazilian government in 2003." bmj.com/content/367/bmj.l5766

Prior fails to understand the pharmaceutical industry, exhibit # 1,238,497

Actually that was exhibit bmj.com/content/367/bmj.l5766

What would the British Medical Journal know about the pharmaceutical industry? They have only been around since 1840.

Sorry, but discovering a molecule isn't the hard part of of medicines. it costs $2B to bring a single drug to market. That public money was spent at some point in the pipeline, be it discovering the molecule or running the trials is a tiny, tiny part of the investment. You might as well note that every drug we have today required someone to take out the trash, and thus the humble garbageman is key to our modern pharma supply. Technically, it's true. Without people to remove the trash from our workplace, work would grind to a halt.

Time and time again, we have seen the following to be true:

1) Little research can be replicated. When groups try to replicate what is considered foundational research, the success rate is poor. This is true from cancer to global warming.

2) Peer review works, but it takes a long, long time to right itself--on the order of decades.

3) Researchers, after 3-4 years of working on a thesis, will never report "Well, I studied XYZ for 3 years, and it didn't work at all." Instead, failures will be twisted into successes, and data will be tortured to show correlations. Nobody wants to admit they wasted 3 years on something.

Combining the above three paints a dismal state of affairs with no relief in site for public research. Private companies understand the ultimate arbiter of truth is the market, and the market doesn't pay for things that don't work. And in fact the market (and courts) will severely punish those that aren't truthful.

For your average university researcher, however, publishing junk carries little to no consequences. Which is why we're in this pickle.

lol you obviously haven't the slightest idea how basic science is done in the USA

That's the thing - this is the third option.. not the evil-but-effective Market or the good-but-incompetent Bureaucrats, this is DARPA done broad spectrum - the value of re-establishing US world leadership in AI, supercomputing, quantum, replacing critical metals, fusion energy, etc., where all have fundamental physics/ mathematics under-pinnings not yet figured out - this is more than a top University lab could accomplish, greater than a skunkworks corporate department (if any still exist) could do. They key is whether they are DARPA secret or need to publish consistently, etc. Exciting.

the essential ingredients for darpa was a shared nonpartisan agreement that it was important and worthwhile, a belief that the government could lead this effort, and a resistance to overt overthetop corruption and cronyism

lol those days are gone

I fear the 2008 election spelled forever the end of broad opposition to corruption and cronyism.

We have an entire political party that bases their success on cronyism and corruption, that party is not in power now.

lol. Yeah, when I think about Trump - his Presidential administration, his businesses, his TV show, his marriages, the people he surrounds himself with, his worldview - a number of words come to mind.

None of which are 'transparency', 'meritocracy', or 'public process.'

Yeah, I read about Obama's brother-in-law stealing hospital supplies and auctioning them off.

I read about Trump's son killing that hooker at Mar a Lago

This TC post comes right after another TC post postulating that labor’s share of pie has decreased because modern management can better measure performance and price/wage discriminate best vs. worst performers. Trying to picture how this proposed NSF funding boost doesn't end up as a bunch of mediocre scientists collecting government checks while the smart people keep on making products people want. Wondering if past government research success was due to the fact a great scientist or engineer in 1950 knew private management would recognize genius with low true positive and so felt government work was a good option. Also more national pride back in the day. Assume the money comes from defunding research universities’ women’s studies, media studies, journalism, black studies, any other department ending in “studies”, and English departments. Don’t we really just want more people to go to engineering school?

Careful what you wish for: even with current federal, state, and local funding levels of public and private English departments, at least 20% of American adults are functionally illiterate (in English), and another 20% or so are sub-literate (eighth-grade reading levels? fourth-grade?).

Our "cognitive elites" cannot even staff our "education systems" well enough to confer basic literacy reliably: why trust the stooges with even more anti-democratic conniving?

English departments in college don’t teach people to read.

Certo! What I've been saying for years . . . .

And don't forget, the places where our "cognitive elites" have free-run to put whatever system they want in place--generally the coastal states, have the highest rates of poverty and illiteracy.

CA leads Arkansas in illiteracy and poverty.

And black kids do better in school in red states versus blue states. Higher graduation rates, higher grades, higher literacy.

Former coastal state governors include Arnold Schwarzenegger, Mitt Romney, and Chris Christie (whose entire political career rested largely on the fact that he helped raise money for George W. Bush's campaign and subsequently got a U.S. Attorney appointment out of the deal). They were hardly the first choice of the "cognitive elites" in their respective states.

You are ignoring the west coast used to be solidly middle class and red just 30 years ago. And don't confuse yourself: Romney isn't conservative.

" Assume the money comes from defunding research universities’ women’s studies, media studies, journalism, black studies, any other department ending in “studies”, and English departments. "

This is backwards. Those departments cost basically nothing to run but provide lots of tuition money while the sciences require more costly investments and reinvestments to keep running while bringing in less tuition due to relative lack of popularity.

Wages are the largest cost in both humanities and the sciences, especially professor's wages. It's a rare science project where the equipment costs more than the people.

There's a large negative externality from those graduates for the government in the form of unemployment benefits and EITC though.

And their agiprop and SJW brainwashing campaigns on Twiiter... Huge negative externality

if only 25% can be tied to government funding.

"U.S. global leadership in innovation": but not at innovating a novel coronavirus and then letting the bloody thing escape.

(If that's what happened.)

I'm perfectly willing to believe that our viruses are better than their viruses. I just hope our containment procedures are too.

If China invented this virus, they seem to also have a head start on finding its cure. Note that the virologists are military:

"In total, 105 [out of 108] of the participants had developed binding antibodies – which attach themselves to the pathogen and can help mark them out to the immune system – 28 days after the vaccination. The study said none had shown any “serious” adverse reaction."


"In particular, agency officials would have the authority to adopt some of the management practices used by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) within the Department of Defense, known for its agility and focus on tangible, deadline-driven results."

This sounds like a wonderful thing for us to celebrate, right here on the descendant of the ARPANET. There is a solid demonstration of that kind of R&D power.

Happily, they're not being asked to emulate the CDC.

It's really amazing how many people on this page just can't embrace Tormorrowland .. dispositionally?

Be the future you want to create.

This blog is more Peter Pan than any other Disney story. Herd immunity is exactly the pixie dust encrusted magical thinking that only a 14 year old would seriously consider.

My thought, before I reopened this page, was how strange it is that so many can have neigh on 4 years of the government they want, and still believe that everything is terrible.

Lead, follow, or get out of the way?

Every week for the past month there has been declassified docs showing how bad our institutions have been corrupted. We knew about the DOJ, FBI and CIA, now also the Treasury Dept doing illegal surveillance, and the whistleblower report detailing it has sat there for 3 years. How dysfunctional and for how long is hanging over us. Did the Obama administration corrupt them or just doubled down on existing corruption? Some things are better of course, but a lot of work to do just to get back to trusting any part of the government.

And, of course, the media is just as bad.

An MSNBC reporter was in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin Monday reporting on crowds of people not wearing face masks when a passerby informed the live TV audience that, while the reporter had a mask on, the cameraman did not.

I really feel sorry for you, buddy. Either you do not have not ability to read and digest primary sources, or you don't care, and bs from the troll farm is good enough.

I’m a boomer. I’m not supposed to trust the government.

Watergate was amateur hour compared to this.

Mr. “Most Scandal Free Admin” will have an asterisk after his name.

I don’t trust the commies either, but I’m a boomer.

China has hid too much. Manmade or potential bioweapon would not be a surprise.

They poison baby food and pet food.

I’ll take my chances and not take their vaccine.

Only with you lot. The history books are already being written, Obama was a solid B to B+ level president.

"Obama was a solid B to B+ level president."

I'm inclined to agree with you, but where are the C's in this list?
Carter D
Reagan A
Bush C
Clinton B+
Bush Jr D
Obama B
Trump F

Maybe a more realistic take is that Obama was a C. He wasn't as good as Clinton. Clinton wasn't an A. The logic says that Obama was a C.

Carter D
Reagan A
Bush C
Clinton B
Bush Jr D
Obama C
Trump F

Carter: owner of supermarket in medium-size Southern town and farm
Reagan: movie actor, television pitch man
Bush: Member of national elite oligarchy, high level intelligence operative
Clinton: errand boy for small time mobsters, promoted to luxury car salesman
Bush Jr: Career heir, national guard fighter pilot
Obama: television news reader in mid-market city
Trump: Real estate investor joined at the hip to banks, unreality TV star

Including some regular folks like Carter. Seems like a nice variety of types. Would you prefer different? Tell us.

It's not scientific so it's not like any of us can "prove" President X was a B+ and President Y was a B-. So if you want Clinton above Obama, B+ is above B. Make Obama B- if you prefer. It's not science

Sure enough, if they're from Darpa they'll develop the biggest guns ever. Caliber 5000, shining in the sun, and making the biggest Badaboom ever, even more than my nephew's farts. May our enemies cower in fear!

Have you ever welcomed "self-driving?" Do you know who funded the earliest competitions?

All the R&D people love to praise the US government for was done in the name of better killing power by the military. The freeway system was conceived to ensure the military could move across the country efficiently. Bridge heights were determined to ensure missiles could be carried.

GPS was funded to ensure missiles could more accurately find their targets.

Spread spectrum was conceived to disguise communications and make them impervious to jamming.

The internet was invented to ensure a fault-tolerant means for critical gov servers and research institutes could stay in contact during a nuclear attack.

Countless drugs and medicines were invented (including antibiotics) to reduce troop casualty.

All in the name of killing more efficiently.

You left out the school lunch program. That too, was for killing more efficiently.

The problem we have is that it is hard to get Americans to spend money freely on anything except for killing more efficiently.

Don't forget big data, invented to get the missiles to the terrorists' phones more quickly.

feckless friedman fraughted


"....NSF’s historical mission to explore the frontiers of knowledge...."

Color me skeptical. For as long as I can remember, word is that NSF funding is for dotting i's and crossing t's, not boldly going where none have gone before.

A lot of going where none have gone before looks a lot like treading and retreading old ground. Scientific research looks amazingly boring. It's like the original Star Trek. They gallivant all around the galaxy and you see the same damned stars out the window every episode.

As long as I keep speaking my 'native' tongue, my start-up with 'oriental' support will help me last. Though I might keep saying some crap to 'grand' public of my 'grand' native land.

Republicans want to throw more money at an agency?

Clearly this agency has escaped the swamp of omnipotent evil bureaucrats that occupy and control all the other agencies, and operate them like private fiefdoms to pursue their communist longings, immune to any form of pressure or inteference from Congress.

I mean, why else would the Republicans throw MORE money at this, unless it was clearly effective and efficient, operated as a strict (and color-blind) meritocracy, and superior to the private sector in every way.

It's behavioral economics. The "recency" of 4 coronavirus stimulus packages, with $2.4 trillion in funding, makes an additional $100 billion look small.

(Personally, I'd think with $2.4 trillion in play, a lot could be carved out for good purposes without adding "more.")

when you consider how much we throw at banks and wars, even $2 trillion looks small

We know best to un-jumble words.

Oh great. Lots more "gender in glaciology" and still no meaningful accomplishments. https://www.nsf.gov/about/history/timeline90s.jsp#1990s

Where have you gone, Senator Coburn? A nation turns its disbelieving eyes to you.

It's funny. If you look at the whole Wikipedia page the gender in glaciology thing boils down to "they did a thing, once."


With an annual budget of about US$7.8 billion (fiscal year 2018), the NSF funds approximately 24% of all federally supported basic research conducted by the United States' colleges and universities.[3] In some fields, such as mathematics, computer science, economics, and the social sciences, the NSF is the major source of federal backing.


Really, it's how you feel about progress in mathematics, computer science, economics, and the social sciences, and whether you harbor the fantasy that there is a profit motive matched up with every good innovation under the sun.

it doesn't take like hanging around libertarians to figure out that despite all their pleadings to rationalism, they actually haven't the slightest idea how things actually work

No Worries:
I'm convinced that this new Super(Ultra?) NSF will deliver innovation post-coronavirus the same way DHS delivered security post-9/11.
I do wonder if the Super NSF will also borrow DHS hiring practices and uniform design....

The money quote is this: "One provision would expand NSF’s ability to use outside experts hired for short stints"

The odds are exceptionally high that this will be used as a mechanism to union bust and to turn the agency into a privatized wasteland of temps and wage slaves.

Union busting of public unions is frankly for the best for the people, the taxpayers, and the workers.

lol. It must be "blatantly ridiculous assertion' day.

Personally, I prefer talk like a pirate day. It's more coherent.

From the article: "The bill calls for directing the biggest slice of the additional $100 billion that NSF would get to an unspecified number of university-based technology centers pursuing fundamental research in 10 key areas."

University research over the last decades is pathetic. There are glimmers of interesting things. But even MIT's list of the top 50 things to come out of MIT is pretty sad.

Consider how many universities have been looking for a breakthrough battery chemistry for electrics cars. They all got their ass handed to them by a nearly off-the-shelf cell from Panasonic + Tesla.

Long ago, a master's thesis used to accomplish something very significant: Consider Claude Shannon's work formalizing boolean algebra, which was a significant building block for the modern computer.

These days, a lot of master's thesis papers just survey existing technology--a detailed summary of the state of the art. And this passes for hard core R&D these days.

And that's without any "social justice" dilution occurring. This money will flow into universities, get filtered into the various SJW departments, and be diluted and wasted. Mark my words. We'll look back in a decade and and see what a waste this was.

The fact is that innovation requires a massive body count. For every Google, you have 100 companies that were started, consumed all of the savings of the founders, consumed all of the time. The decade it took them to fail is a massive financial blemish on the founder's lives. I don't know how to soften that.

Battery research was over at NREL. That's under DOE in our system, rather than NSF.

Yes, but the lager point is that the modern-day output from our public research labs + universities is handily being beaten by the private sector. Over and over this is true, especially when you focus on the largest problems vexing us today.

And if the gov+university path is not generating the raw R&D needed, then throwing more money at it likely isn't going to change the outcome.

What your average master's candidate was doing in the first half of the 1900's was far more significant than what your average master's candidate is doing today. Weak candidates working with weak professors will continue to churn out drivel.

A hundred years ago, a single person (Moore (first nuclear reactor), Noyce (IC), Shannon, Black (negative feedback), etc) with a unique take on a problem could significantly change the course of history and universities were an ideal environment to let these people crack these nuts. But the low hanging fruit has all been picked. And most everything that needs solving today needs a sizable team--10 or 20 people--to make a dent in the status quo. And universities are the wrong place for those efforts to happen.

Now, it's not impossible for a single person to still force a pivot in the state of the art. Bitcoin and deepfakes are two examples. But a university infrastructure wasn't needed at all for these to happen. A university was needed for Moore to build his first reactor because your need far more lab + budget than your average house can provide.

Having worked in private sector R&D for most of my life, I don't consider that a strong answer.

The the way I look at it, there are a constellation of possible research projects, opportunities for innovation, and *some* of them have a profit motive attached.

That means that if you *only* do private R&D, you *only* get a subset of .. Tomorrowland.

I want it all. And so I want private research and public research. Both.

(PS when talking about semiconductors, you forgot Mead and Conway. Lots of very important public/private collaboration there.)

I've also worked as an EE in private sector R&D my entire life and hold more than 10 patents. I do consider it a strong answer ;)

Do you think public R&D today is giving an outstanding bang for the buck? If yes, then cite a few examples out output from the last decade that you think really justify the expense. Maybe I just haven't seen the right examples.

The list wasn't exhaustive. It was more to show that the greenfield at the time permitted very small teams working withing a university or private setting could significantly change the trajectory of the world. With that low-hanging fruit picked, that doesn't really happen anymore. In other words, a single person working in university or in a private research lab won't really change the world by themselves anymore because the problems to be solved are much bigger and much harder and need teams. Not saying it can't happen. It just wont' happen with the frequency it did 100 years ago.

And if you acknowledge that, then you should also acknowledge that pumping money into an environment where we know hard problems cannot be solved is not going to give

I already named one world-changing example, the Carver and Mead textbook. I frankly boggle that you could be an EE and not appreciate the impact.

Or maybe you don't traces sources back far enough to know how many of your components, or methods, were developed in the public sector?

I hope you never used Berkeley Sockets (for the non-engineers in the audience, that's a little joke. Everybody uses Berkeley Sockets).

Now as far as the artificial constraint "from the last decade" fist of all, lol. The way we know VLSI was world-changing was that it had time to do that. It changed the world.

BTW, I'm currently playing with a descendant of RepRap (2005) and an Raspberry Pi (2012). If you are an EE you know that thousands and thousands of young engineers are cutting their teeth on the same.

(I'm trying to find the right kind of switch .. or optical pair .. in my junk drawer in order to make a filament run-out sensor.)

> Carver and Mead textbook

Huh? I indicated there was plenty of old-school innovation happening at universities, and I listed several including Moore's work at University of Chicago with the reactor. Now, I'd not consider their text to be world changing--what was happening inside Intel was far more innovative in 1980 and far more advanced than what was being described in the book. But if you'd like to count their book as super impressive, go ahead. I simply consider it a book documenting what private companies were doing a few years prior.

My overarching point was that it's very hard to have single person breakthroughs anymore. The teams required to move the needle need to be fairly sizable and require contributions from many disciplines.

> Berkeley sockets

An API isn't really an innovation to be held aloft. The underlying functionality, sure. But the API was merely an abstraction of extant functionality.

> you know that thousands and thousands of young engineers are cutting their teeth on the same.

But while these are interesting, they are not world changing like Black's heretical idea of negative feedback.

Where is the modern equivalent of Claude Shannon's seminal work that will be still admired in 100 years? Raspi ain't it. Neither are homemade 3d printers. Those are merely modern versions of Heathkit's Hero robot.

You are confusing seminal R&D work with cool things at the time. They are totally different.

Dude. This site itself runs WordPress, most likely on Linux. Did you think you weren't using sockets as you sent that reply?

I used to get into the guts of Apache. Definitely sockets right there. I assume nginx is the same.

Where did I say it wasn't sockets? Sockets is an API--an abstraction. I can use berkeley sockets to communicate over an IRDA link or a teletype. It has NOTHING to do with the underlying transport.

Ethernet was a very good innovation. Sockets, the API, is not ethernet. Sockets, as an abstraction, is pretty poor. Look at Java or c# to see what a modern sych or async netoworking API looks like.

Look up the history of the hottest technology in CS right now, Deep Learning.

The major breakthrough happened roughly around 2009-12, at Toronto/Stanford/Montreal/NYU.

Then Google/Facebook jumped in, scaled/productionized the idea and now it’s used by the whole world.

The academics came up with the conceptual, mathematical, pen-and-paper breakthrough, demonstrated efficacy on academic datasets in public conferences and competitions. Then the private sector took notice, tried those ideas, and applied them to practical business problems within their products successfully, while solving significant engineering problems related to scaling etc. on the way.
Of course now these big tech cos also have “pure R&D” groups but the big ideas still seem to come from the academia(and profs routinely turn down 2-5x job offers from industry).

At my first job our "math guy" had worked on the first "perceptron." He blamed Minsky for killing it then, big-footing it as "not AI." But in the end ..

No, deep learning goes back much much further than that...it has been countless incremental improvements, spread throughout the world. All well and good.

But don't confuse those with the seminal inventions from the past where a single person invented something so profound it change the world forever.

My thesis remains this: Private companies are pushing innovation much harder than public efforts, and it's not due to lack of funding among the public efforts. It's due to the fact that innovation today requires large, multi-disciplined teams and universities aren't good at driving those efforts. I've asked for modern proof points of universities driving large, publicly funded teams and innovative teams that are producing significant output that will be revered in a hundred years. There's likely some out there--but it's not common.

@Phinton I think you have a point, but in my experience industrial R&D is a different portfolio than University. Industry research appears to have a much shorter time horizon. Universities can pursue fundamentals that apply 10, 20, 50 years out. They are complimentary objectives. That is also why it is hard to answer your question. You won't know what the most important work in basic gov't funded research was during the 2010s for another 20-30 years.

The question is what projects are not being funded at the margin. Take a look at the projects being funded now.

Or don’t, this is now a Culture War pissing contest and reality is irrelevant

You added preciesly nothing, as usual. As I say, there are a constellation of possible projects, and many of them are being funded publicly or privately.

It's not a pissing contest to say that we need both, or want both.

It is exactly the opposite.

I'm done with this, but the sad thing is the that immoderation is all on one foot. That is, with the fools who will deny every public contribution of science put in front of them.

On a lighter note, I hope it will take me no more than several hours to "innovate" a solution which I could just buy for $3.50 from AliExpress.

'course, could be 60 day delivery on that nowadays.

It helps to remember that a lot of stuff that appears to be coming from private industry is actually university research spun off into the private sector. In the 1980s, there was a hack tax return, the 1040-CI going around. That was the 1040-conflict-of-interest where professors would declare graduate students on government grants doing research for their startups and other such scams. It assumed every professor had a startup or two and a consulting company along with a lab. It was, like a lot of humor based on truth, pretty funny.

Piketty wants his countrymen to turn into truckers and kill Bezos.


Science as a whole has made an historical failure by not opposing the lock-downs for the coronavirus. In the medium run, this will be clear for everyone (except perhaps anonymous) and public science funding will fall. I will fight to protect my fields (mathematics, and also physics, most of biology), and to be sure that the most responsible science bear the weight of the cuts, namely Epidemiology, and i am sorry to say it for the authors of these blogs, Economics.

I suppose the interesting thing is that I've only refused to count chickens before they're hatched on pandemic response.

And that .. skepticism .. has put off people who want to cash their herd immunity checks now.

The biggest parlor game for the next few decades will be wondering what the US would have looked like with a competent President that could rise to the occasion.

Let's not forget who was running: Hillary Clinton at head of Dem ticket. Runners up were Bernnie, Jeb, and Rubio and some guy who ran a pizza chain. We could have had Mit I guess.

Any one of those would have easily outperformed this travesty in office now.

Hell, even George W figured it out after a couple false starts once the SHTF. And at least Dubya had the sense to surround himself with people who knew something about governing.

Trump has performed badly because he had sent mixed signal about
lock-downs. Hillary, Rubio are "expert"-driven politicians and would have done worse without a doubt. I like Bernie a lot, but I have no indication he would have done any better on this issue.
Jeb I have no idea, but his brother George W
would probably have been the best president in this crisis again. He has a tendency to listen to clever mavericks rather than to stupid "experts".

Trump's mishandling is far beyond mixed messages and stupid comments.

He has actively made our response stupider. Some sort of super-spreader of incoherence and chaos.

How is the success of Trump's performance measured? Or that of any other figure involved in the greatest fraud in world history? No one will ever be able to point out if wearing a mask saved their life or not wearing one caused their death. No one will ever be able to prove that arbitrarily beginning a lock-down on March 5th and ending it on June 1 was more effective than beginning it on April 30 and ending it on June 15. No one will ever be able to accurately say that a social distance of ten feet would have saved more lives than one of six feet. All of these numbers are just fodder for commenters everywhere who base everything on numerology. Sometimes numbers just aren't the answer.

... and no one will be able to prove that not doing a lock down would up the GDP by a single dollar.

Look at Sweden.

upon passage, Congress also should make the NSF director a Cabinet level position

Additional funding is not urgent for science. The problem with science is trust. As Martin Gurri (now with the Mercatus Center) starts his latest article:

"We fondly imagine that truth must emerge, pure and triumphant, from facts discovered by “science” or “experts.” That’s not how the world works. Truth is a function of trust and pertains to the authority of the source. If we lose confidence in science—if, for example, we come to think of scientists as hucksters or crackpots—then scientific pronouncements would have no greater weight than a television commercial."

Gurri's article is not about science (it's about "the information sphere", the one where we search for facts). But my take from that first paragraph is that science has an urgent problem with trust, with the authority of the source. It was urgent before the pandemic but now it's grotesque.

So far this year as off 11.00 am ET today, according to Google Scholar, 51,500 "scientific" papers on COVID-19 have been circulated. Indeed, most are not peer-reviewed and never will be peer-reviewed. This post (in Spanish) has some observations on the first 50,000 papers
but more importantly, the author argues that researchers have diverted resources from ongoing research to deliver such huge output. Yes, something similar to the forced reallocation of healthcare resources from other diseases to COVID-19. Why have researchers been doing that? To answer this question we should focus on the perverse incentives that may be conditioning research spending.

I suspect that incentives in research spending (including that funded by private sources) are not different than those conditioning other government spendings.

Between tobacco and pollution companies buying science to muddy the water, republicans attacking science because they hate facts that contradict their myths and corruption, and universities whoring themselves out for corporate grants and consultancy junkets, it's no wonder there's a crisis of trust.

Don’t forget universities whoring themselves out to China. I wonder if that money was taxable?

After the manufacturers sent all our money and IP to China, I figured the universities just lemminged along.

Strange time to start the clock.

How about forced sterilization, the Tuskegee experiment, MK Ultra, FDA encouraging a super high carb/corn syrup diet, IPCC models not landing within their 95% confidence intervals.....

As long as the funding isn't tied to producing anything useful, I'm all for it!

More like this, please!!

One issue is what kind of scientific research is being funded here. Is it stuff that actually leads to technological innovation, like that of DARPA and some of the national labs? Or is it going to be more ephemeral stuff like "climate science" that leads to nothing but increased government regulation? Even worse would be funding into "social sciences".

My prediction is that climate science will be a major collateral damage
of the growing distrust of Science that will follow the Covid crisis. While the coming climate crisis is real and infinitely more serious than the covid,
the climate science shares too many traits in common with epidemiology: hyper-complex modeling with many parameters that no one can explain in simple words (a sure sign of bad science), hyper-mediatisation of their work, a stream of catastrophist predictions, demands for strong and immediate actions, etc.

I think that it is a good thing because taking no action against climate change will be somewhat less catastrophic for humanity than actions inspired by climate scientists.

New Zealand modeling...

"Is it an infectious respiratory disease?"
"Can we take steps to reduce it's spread?"
"Well, let's do that then."
"I'll need some sort of graph I can show the Prime Minister."

In fifty years, the nations that did their climate science homework will be the ones that still have crops they can grow, habitable communities and above sea level land area. If the US gives up on science, we'll be an amusing place for people from the first world to visit, hire cheap help and have a good laugh at our pretensions.

Just about everyone knows by now that the earth's climate has been pretty much the same since Genesis. Continental glaciation in North America 10,000 years ago is a comic book story. Tectonic continental movement is mythological, like Atlantis. Finding marine fossils on mountain tops is evidence of practical jokes. The climate is never supposed to change.

I worry about this. The NSF is maybe the last place where you can still get funded for doing *basic science.* This seems to threaten that model. I don't think this is going to be a revolution in funding at all. It has been the trend for years that no one has patience for basic science.

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