Russian Science….

It is well known what happened to the excellent Russian scientific enterprise in the immediate aftermath of the Soviet Union’s demise in 1991. Brain Drain is a simple phrase which encapsulates the effects of cutting off sustained and predictable investment in scientific research. For a summary of how Russian science is slowly moving beyond what was surely a national scientific catastrophe, read here. For the perspective from the Chronicle of Higher Education, look here.

In the meantime, that famous downward trajectory is surely a cautionary tale for those of us here in the States, who have witnessed a slow atrophying public support for science.

Quite separately, but reflecting a similar decay in public understanding of how science investments are made to pay off practically, the recent shutdown cost American research dearly…..experiments that are interrupted are often irreparably lost.

Norman Augustine on the shutdown’s effect on US Antarctic research…

From today’s Chronicle, behind their pay wall: 

“I do not know what the cost of the shutdown will be,” Mr. Augustine said when asked for an estimate of the losses that could result from an Antarctic shutdown. “It is just one more example of what we are doing to rip apart at the grassroots level the fabric of what is one of America’s few remaining competitive advantages: our research and education system. No enemy could have been so effective.”

I couldn’t have said it better.

The government shutdown….

I haven’t written yet about this partly because, as a scientist, I’m so frustrated with the quite real effect on research, particularly at the NIH. But science has become truly global and, as a result, if its not done here in the States, it will get done elsewhere–although the results may then not accrue to advantage of the US.

I’m even more concerned about the debt ceiling issue. I’ve written about that issue before in the context of sequestration. I’ll simply reiterate that the brinksmanship is a very bad thing for the global economy.

Ultimately what I’m most worried about is the political dysfunction in governance at the federal level. This has manifested throughout the Obama Presidency in one form or another. Many others have written how the dysfunction we are seeing now is reminiscent of that seen before the American Civil War. That’s not a good precedent.