Science is not an entitlement
"Science, quite frankly, is not an entitlement program. It really is the basis of our prosperity, of who we are today, and what we will be in the future, what our kids will be doing, what our grandkids will be doing, the kind of life that they will have, the kind of standard of living that they will have. It's not a luxury."
-Robert Rosner, Director Argonne National Laboratory, Science Talk, Scientific American Podcast, 03/12/08
So as you can tell by my posts that are getting fewer and farther between, I am really, really busy. And all these wonderful things to blog about are piling up on my desk. Things like:
- An article in my local newspaper that says that STEM fields will become the foundation of our economy (especially as unskilled, commodity associated jobs move overseas)
-An article from March IEEE Spectrum, pg 19, about "US Engineers and the Flat Earth" that talks about the US National Academies report and our abysmal education system that does not encourage science and engineering or even lay the foundation for future success. [Case in point, engineering is not studied in the typical elementary to HS curriculum at all, or if included is lumped in with "technology")
- An article in Science July 6 2007, "Straight talk about STEM Education" about how more hands on education is needed to excite and retain STEM majors and to provide more real world experience for students.
I'm going to be honest here. We are almost definitely in a recession and it is possible that we stand on the brink of depression. A costly war, coupled with increasing oil prices, and poor investment oversight especially in the mortgage market leave us on the brink, but not quite, of collapse.
The prosperity of our past economy has been based on industry and technology that we have produced. But we are quickly losing our edge. Nearly 75% of the students enrolled in Midwest R1U's PhD program are international and this is not abnormal. US students are increasingly less likely to pursue STEM professions from the BS up to the PhD. We are as a society resting on our laurels so to speak. But be assured that China and India will not and are not. If we continue abysmal funding increases that do not even meet cost of living, and even cuts in some places (high energy physics), while our competitors are pouring money into infrastructure and training, we will be left behind.
The worst part is that the people, like me, who are in the position to educate the politicians and the public are so busy writing grants trying to save our professions and careers, and those of all the students and technicians who depend on us, that we don't have the time to organize and fight.
All of this makes me incredibly sad. The first time I visited Rome, I marveled at how a society capable of making such fantastic things, artistically and scientifically, could crumble. Now, I feel as if it is happening in front of my very eyes.