It seems there are numerous American scientists who feel bereft. I can relate, because I am related. I have two brothers who are physicists, like our father before them. My father drove a beat-up pick-up truck with a bumper sticker that read, "Legalize Physics." That was three decades ago. So perhaps times have always been tough, but current U.S. scientists feel especially disowned and devalued.
Now it seems American science is being ignored and devalued elsewhere, not just here where anti-intellectualism has always thrived in certain quarters. It's often been socially and politically dangerous in America to claim to know something, smacks of elitism. So science and its findings are often ignored or belittled as the rantings of those just trying to somehow get their way, or just get another research grant. The science panel did note that federal funding for research has been cut.
Again, I can relate. A small public university in the town where I live just closed its geology department to save money. Huh? We don't need more hydrologists, petroleum or coal experts? What are we doing to ourselves?
At a World Science Festival in New York prominent U.S. scientists averred the current federal regime does not value science and that's taking a toll on America's scientific believability overseas. American science's status has not been raised by a recent survey of federally-employed scientists. Many say their findings are filtered for a certain brand of political correctness. Some examples the US scientists cited were: elected officials rejecting scientific evidence of climate change, a reluctance to federally fund stem cell research, and some U.S. officials casting doubt on evolution.
Long-term the drive for cheaper energy, enough drinking water, and other cleantech trends will drive interest in research and the science behind it. Much of that will be done in the U.S, which is still a repository of great minds, creativity and risk-taking. The latter perhaps the single most crucial element in American cleantech, the willingness to think and do business in new ways.
In opening remarks at the Science Festival, New York's Mayor Bloomberg descried the gap between what we know scientifically and what we do politically. He cited the push for corn-based ethanol as an example of federal corruption of science to serve political ends. And he attacked using political operatives in government agencies to suppress or distort scientific findings. Bloomberg cited a rule he learned as a young investor: “In God we trust. Everyone else, bring data.”
We can all remember when computer geeks were devalued and ignored. Now it's unfortunately the fate of research science, but this too shall pass. Our future and our survival as a apecies may depend on a lot of science that is still in the lab, or in the mind of the scientists. And if it doesn't done in the U.S. it will be donein China, or Germany or some place where science is a valued human endeavor.