Monday, February 28, 2011

When Scientific Research and Higher Education become just Political Football

A mere two years after the passage of the economic stimulus package by a Democratically-led Congress, the now Republican-controlled House of Representatives have started swinging their budget cutting axe at scientific research and higher education.

One point stood out in the midst of all this "fiscal responsibility" talk:

The House bill does not specify cuts to five of the Office of Science's six programs, namely, basic energy sciences, high-energy physics, nuclear physics, fusion energy sciences, and advanced scientific computing. However, it explicitly whacks funding for the biological and environmental research program from $588 million to $302 million, a 49% reduction that would effectively zero out the program for the remainder of the year. The program supports much of DOE's climate and bioenergy research and in the past has funded much of the federal government's work on decoding the human genome. - Science , 25 February 2011: Vol. 331 no. 6020 pp. 997-998 DOI: 10.1126/science.331.6020.997

Do the terms Big Oil, Creationism/Intelligent Design come to your mind?

In other somewhat related news, tenure rights are being weakened in Louisiana and state legislatures are trying to have greater control over how colleges are run. It is hard not to see that there seems to be some sort of a coordinated assault against academia (presumably since many academics are seen by the Republican right as leftist liberals).

Lawmakers are inserting themselves even more directly into the classroom in South Carolina, where a proposal would require professors to teach a minimum of nine credit hours per semester.

"I think we need to have professors in the classroom and not on sabbatical and out researching and doing things to that effect," State Rep. Murrell G. Smith Jr., a Republican, told the Associated Press.

Are they attempting to turn research universities into trade/vocational schools? Or are they confused about the different roles the educational institutions play? There are research-focused universities and primarily teaching colleges.

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