Sorry for the light posting recently. I’ve been at the AAAS Annual Meeting. It was easily the best conference I’ve every been to. It was great to not worry about presenting, worrying about what collaborators/competitors were up to, etc. I only attended the talks that I found interesting. There were actually too many talks I wanted to see, and I often had to pick and choose. Again, this situation was quite different in grad school!
One of the more interesting science policy talks I attended was on “Value and Limits of Scientific Research” (link). Kei Kozumi and David Goldston always have great things to say. It was refreshing to see people wrestle with the tough policy questions around research funding rather than insist that all problems will be solved by more money for science.
A lot of the discussion focused on the effect of the stimulus bill. Because the stimulus bill was designed to have a near-term effect, much attention and energy focuses on the impact of stimulus dollars spent. And so for the first time (?), we’re really trying to undergo a very detailed evaluation of how R&D dollars move through the economy.
We also discussed the potential opportunities and pitfalls of framing science as a job-creating engine. Historically, science was justified as the source of long-term economic growth. Things could get a lot more complicated if we get into the short-term jobs market. There will need to be real evidence that we meet that mandate rather than nebulous statements about basic research leading to technology. And that’s when we can possibly get into trouble.