Ah no, I'm not talking about a Ph.D. in Exotic Dances. Science. Research. Paradigm shifts in technology. These are things people care about. That I'd think they'd care about anyway. You'll end up reading about what your tax dollars are going to. Some of them.
Sequestration (BCA cap is already there) is going to hit the amount of money that funding agencies have to grant to research proposals. I rely on research funding (given via submitted proposals that are recommended for funding) to pay for my 40k/yr tuition, my stipend, my health insurance, my conference travels and my research supplies and equipment. I currently rely on an an American Chemical Society Petroleum Research Fund grant... this is seed money that will help me with all those things. It's not forever and it's meant to be the seed money for larger proposals. So what to do when I'm a 4th year? My professor will wonder too... Write another proposal? Hm, sure. Get a company on board? Maaaybe. We probably need to hold a patent first. After all, we would let lawyers talk to each other. Start a company? I would need my Ph.D. first.. and maybe some training in management/business school (I am so tired of taking classes). Give up and start a ramen shop? I wouldn't put myself through a Ph.D. program if in the end all I'd do is open a ramen shop.
Funding agencies like DoE, DoD, NIH, NASA... tend to be application oriented with the results of a project intended for immediate commercialization or use. DARPA (subset of DoD, I think) funds projects that are WAY out there with pretty crazy goals. I think one of them was like growing a single layer of graphene on a substrate. $1mil. Go.
Fundamental science is still there, somewhat... but you still kind of need it to understand exactly the mechanisms behind the fruits of your research... so while you might have a cool theory, you should have just as cool and widespread application to justify your time and spending other people's money. The politics and business of self-serving interests are very complicated. I don't think I could clearly talk about them without being shot to pieces. I'm naiive and optimistic. Good luck to me, I suppose.
So taxpayers like you, through the taxes you pay (or rather, the money you don't get back every year from the IRS), take some of the risk on the science adventures. I'm in energy storage, so I am indeed quite applied. If you ask me if I've come out with a battery that lasts longer, I will tell you that I am working on it.
Some information you might find interesting and no I'm not someone paid to post these links who do you take me for:
Summary: Federal R&D and Sequestration In The First Five Years
The AACS churns out Science journal. Actually I'm not sure if that link is the original, original source... but anyway.
US Energy Information Administration
Nice handy source of information, statistics and graphs... I like taking information from here when making introduction to presentations. The information is available to all so why not? I think it's enlightening stuff. It is like okay so we know this and this will kill us yet we use so much of it... what should I do to advance a front that counters that? Will the counter leave a different kind of poison trail?
So maybe I can highlight some of my time as an engineering Ph.D student. It might be helpful for others when they consider engineering/science graduate school. I'm too big of a weirdo for my department to post my experience on their website for recruitment.
I don't think names are THAT important so I leave them out for the most part.