by PhilipJ on 12 April 2007
That is the question asked by Richard Collins today in a letter to Science. The pertinent quote:
Is there a point at which a society is doing enough science? Is science so important that we should always want to increase the rate at which we do it? Or is it like almost every other government-funded activity, where the proponents always want more even if we are not sure that more is better? If there were only 100 scientists applying for R01 grants each year, there would be widespread agreement that this is not enough to sustain a vibrant research enterprise; if there were a hundred million, even the most ardent supporters of research would agree that this is too many. The right number, or range of numbers, must be somewhere in between. We could lobby to keep doubling the funding and hope to reach the point where all of the good science was being funded. However, if funding for science is like funding for medical care, education, or war, there is no precedent to expect that increases in funding will ever match the ability to spend the funds, for better or worse. Alternatively, or in addition, if we don’t like the model of funding that we have created, we should debate the merits of limiting the demand for research grants rather than just increasing the supply of money.
In my opinion you have to weigh funding for science relative to, as he mentions, funding for medical care, education, and war. The NSF in the US was alloted just shy $6 Billion in funding for 2007, and the NIH seems to have gotten nearly $30 Billion, though that doesn’t all go towards funding science. In contrast, the defense budget for the US in 2007 is $439.3+ Billion.
I think there’s room for science funding to grow, don’t you?