In reviewing the scientific research grants we give to academia, billions of million dollars a year, I often find it amazing how little we get for all that money spent. No, don’t get me wrong, I believe in research, it’s just that I wonder if government is the best way to fund innovative pure research science. You see, I find that the amount of government funded research is so vast it is crowding out the private foundations and corporate sponsored research mechanism, which I find completely troubling.
When you look at what we get for a one million or two million dollar technology grant to a University these days we surely don’t have a lot to show for it. It’s a very wasteful process. Also, it is also amazing how long it takes to complete the research and the lack of urgency in academia for a viable and applicable use of the technology – and whereas, pure research is near and dear to my heart and it ought to be for all Americans, we don’t seem to be getting much bang for our buck here.
What’s the solution? More grad-student labor, more interns, and fewer overpaid faculty is one part of the solution. There seems to be something of a systemic foundational issue in the way we are approaching things. When the government gives our an SBIR grant to a business or private research facility, it is amazing how much they can do for half the money? Is it because small start-ups and entrepreneurs are willing to put in more sweat equity, willing to work extra hours without extra pay, is it that they have more passion so money isn’t the only issue?
That is surprising isn’t it, you’d think it would be the other way around – that academia wouldn’t care about the money as much as the small business research entrepreneurs, but that gravy train of taxpayer’s dollars has left the station and we the taxpayer’s are being taken for a ride.
Just recently, after the 2016 Presidential Election scientists got together in Washington DC to protest, it seems the geo and Earth science grants might be cut because President Donald Trump is skeptical that mankind’s CO2 is causing cataclysmic warming of our Earth’s atmosphere. The scientists say that “everyone knows climate change is real and that humankind is causing it!” Okay, but if that is so, and everyone is so sure, no need to fund studies to prove what’s already known, right?
Are we funding science to make scientific breakthroughs, propel our future and innovate the next generation of technology – or are we merely funding an already over-bloated academic money pit. We can get more done for less using the passion of entrepreneurs who can make deals to hire those academics who have true passion as side consultants and save billions per year of taxpayer’s money.