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... one that underscores a profound change taking place in the way science is paid for and practiced in America. In fact, the government initiative grew out of richly financed private research: A decade before, Paul G. Allen, a co-founder of Microsoft, had set up a brain science institute in Seattle, to which he donated $500 million, and Fred Kavli, a technology and real estate billionaire, had then established brain institutes at Yale, Columbia and the University of California. Scientists from those philanthropies, in turn, had helped devise the Obama administration’s plan.

American science, long a source of national power and pride, is increasingly becoming a private enterprise.

In Washington, budget cuts have left the nation’s research complex reeling. Labs are closing. Scientists are being laid off. Projects are being put on the shelf, especially in the risky, freewheeling realm of basic research. Yet from Silicon Valley to Wall Street, science philanthropy is hot, as many of the richest Americans seek to reinvent themselves as patrons of social progress through science research.

Damn you! Damn you, Republicans and stupid religious fundamentalists, all of you who deny reality and our right to study it and to know it!

Science belongs to all of us!

God is a scientist! And, I worship Her above all else even if I never mastered THE Calculus.

We all must have access to science, accurate grounding and education in science, free access to its intelligence.

And technology.

The tiny nation of South Korea, unfettered by unlettered stupidity and denial, is now the world's ruler in intelligence technology.

The most important sources of productive growth for South Korean manufacturers had traditionally been directly or indirectly related to the ability of South Korean companies to acquire new technology from abroad and to adapt it to domestic conditions, rather than paying the cost of research and development. However, as Seoul's industry and exports continued to evolve toward higher levels of technology, domestic research and development efforts needed to be increased. Fortunately for South Korea, its high level of well-educated workers, who constitute a formidable brain trust for future research and development, are its major asset.

The Seoul government began investing in technology research institutes soon after the republic was established. The Korean Atomic Energy Commission founded in 1959 was responsible for research and development, production, dissemination, and management of technology for peaceful applications of atomic energy. In the mid-1960s, the government established the Ministry of Science and Technology to oversee all government research and development activities and the Korea Institute of Science and Technology to function as an industrial research laboratory. In the 1970s, in order to better coordinate research and development, two scientific communities were established--one in Seoul, the other near Taejon. The Seoul complex included the Korea Institute of Science and Technology, the Korea Development Institute (affiliated with the Economic Planning Board), the Korea Advanced Institute of Science, and the Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute. Plans for the Daeduk Science Town near Taejon were far more ambitious. Modeled after the Tsukuba Science City in Japan, by the late 1980s the Daeduk Science Town accommodated laboratories specializing in shipbuilding, nuclear fuel processing, metrology, chemistry, and energy research. The government founded the Korea Advanced Institute of Science to develop and offer graduate science programs, and it also encouraged universities to develop their own undergraduate programs in science.

Itsy bitsy little South Korea makes us look like a herd of huge, bumbling blockheads.

I remember the sixties of the last century when John Fitzgerald Kennedy was president. I will never cease to bless the Russians for the challenge they launched into space:

The satellite was silver in color, about the size of a beach ball, and weighed a mere 184 pounds. Yet for all its simplicity, small size, and inability to do more than orbit the Earth and transmit meaningless radio blips, the impact of Sputnik on the United States and the world was enormous and unprecedented. The vast majority of people living today, at the beginning of the 21st century, were born after Sputnik was launched and may be unaware of the degree to which it helped shape life as we know it.

.... There was a sudden crisis of confidence in American technology, values, politics, and the military. Science, technology, and engineering were totally reworked and massively funded in the shadow of Sputnik. The Russian satellite essentially forced the United States to place a new national priority on research science, which led to the development of microelectronics—the technology used in today's laptop, personal, and handheld computers. Many essential technologies of modern life, including the Internet, owe their early development to the accelerated pace of applied research triggered by Sputnik.

On another level, Sputnik affected national attitudes toward conspicuous consumption as well, symbolically killing off the market for the Edsel automobile and the decadent automotive tail fin. It was argued that the engineering talents of the nation were being wasted on frivolities. Americans, wrote historian Samuel Flagg Bemis from the vantage point of 1962, "had been experiencing the world crisis from soft seats of comfort, debauched by [the] mass media..., pandering for selfish profit to the lowest level of our easy appetites, fed full of toys and gewgaws, our power, our manpower softened in will and body in a climate of amusement."

.... Politically, Sputnik created a perception of American weakness, complacency, and a "missile gap," which led to bitter accusations, resignations of key military figures, and contributed to the election of John F. Kennedy, who emphasized the space gap and the role of the Eisenhower-Nixon administration in creating it....

America went to work -- and to university, to study higher mathematics, to study astrophysics, to study rocketry, to get their heads out of their asses to study everything!
Within a year of Sputnik’s launch, Congress responded by creating a sweeping new education bill, the National Defense Education Act, (NDEA), providing funding, mostly at the college level, for science and math resources. Hoping to attract more student to enter the science field and hopefully apply their knowledge to national defense applications, the NDEA did spur a renewed interest in science and math...
Unfortunately, then came Ronald Wilson Reagan, the 666 to the goddess Science:
By the early 1980s, amid a renewed wave of anti-government sentiment that included public education, national defense was again used to drive education policy. This time, a report made by a commission formed by President Ronald Reagan, A Nation at Risk, concluded that the state of public schools posed a danger to America’s ability to compete economically in a growing world economy. Like the response to Sputnik, Americans embraced the argument and launched a new industry, test-based education.

Since then Congress and every administration since Reagan has enacted various legislation based upon the assumption that American’s public schools were in need of critical care. While the NDEA was the carrot for improving science education, legislation such as No Child Left Behind, (NCLB), and administration initiatives such as Race to the Top proved to be the stick, this time placing much of the blame on teachers.

Teaching to the Test, the almighty Test, instead of pure mathematics and science -- and a lot of other stuff including languages and all the arts -- and most importantly civics and how our government works.

Science, knowledge and wisdom cancelled out by Ronald Wilson Reagan; the NDEA, National Defense Education Act, cancelled out by NCLB, No Child Left Behind. We became a great nation of stupids.

Originally posted to Karen Hedwig Backman on Sun Mar 16, 2014 at 12:32 PM PDT.

Also republished by Science Matters and Progressive Atheists.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Wish I could Rec 1000 Times (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    marina, palantir, jotter, cocinero

    That which we are losing to the almighty dollar via corporations and their infiltration of government in certain cases is incalculable.

    Good luck to future generations.  I hope you are not known as the generation of American Dunderheads.  By the time anyone figures out how much we've lost thanks to corporations (and banksters and Casino Wall Street hucksters), I'll most likely long be dead (I'm old, so time is not on my side), but I'm pretty sure the US will never again be #1 in anything, least of all education, knowledge, music and the arts, or science.

    Those honors will go to countries who figured out long ago that war is not a noble pursuit, but a grand waste of lives and money.

    I'm sick of attempts to steer this nation from principles evolved in The Age of Reason to hallucinations derived from illiterate herdsmen. ~ Crashing Vor

    by NonnyO on Sun Mar 16, 2014 at 01:16:46 PM PDT

  •  a Koch Borthers satellite (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    palantir, NonnyO, cocinero

    Warning - some snark may be above‽ (-9.50; -7.03)‽ eState4Column5©2013 "I’m not the strapping young Muslim socialist that I used to be" - Barack Obama 04/27/2013 (@eState4Column5).

    by annieli on Sun Mar 16, 2014 at 01:38:33 PM PDT

  •  Saw This Happening At State Universities When (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    marina, palantir, NonnyO, antirove, cocinero

    I did tech suppory in research administration, in the 80's and 90's.

    Like everything about the conquest of the US, this was well underway a generation and two ago.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Sun Mar 16, 2014 at 01:48:43 PM PDT

  •  Um (0+ / 0-)

    Some perspective here.  US R&D expenditure is an order of magnitude greater than South Korea's.  In fact, the US alone spends more than $100 billion year on R&D (in excess of $400 billion, in fact).  81 percent of that spending is non-defense; just shy of $80 billion of which is on basic research.  That's twice South Korea's entire R&D expenditure.

    I don't believe in God, so can't help you there, but if you want to master calculus there's no first order reason why you can't.  And once you have it, it's with you forever.  We're in a day and age where adults are picking up languages to enrich their lives; let's do the same with math.

  •  History shows (0+ / 0-)

    that dominance in scientific inquiry and production of new knowledge by a particular culture or geographic area or state  is easily lost.

    We are seeing this happen in the United States in real time.

    One is tempted to forward copies of "The Goose that Laid the Golden Egg" to our legislators, as it is likely one of the few relevant parables suited to their level of comprehension.


    Everyone born after Star Wars came out is basically a Democrat. -- Save The Clock Tower

    by jotter on Sun Mar 16, 2014 at 05:34:12 PM PDT

  •  science and education have different purposes here (4+ / 0-)

    than they do elsewhere.

    In other countries, the purpose of an education system is to produce educated citizens.

    Here, the only purpose of an education system is to produce the next generation of low-wage workers who are barely capable of doing the boring shit jobs that remain in our economy--without asking too many uncomfortable questions.

    In the end, reality always wins.

    by Lenny Flank on Mon Mar 17, 2014 at 06:00:11 AM PDT

  •  These issues apply to the social sciences (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    i saw an old tree today

    as well as the natural sciences. University research on education, economics, sociology, health care policy, and more are influenced by private and corporate grants while topics that do not meet the corporate agenda are neglected.

  •  Comment (0+ / 0-)

    Irrespective of all of the concerns above (which are quite valid, of course) is the fundamental difference between corporate research and public research.

    There's nothing wrong with business-funded R&D per se.  But it isn't basic research.  Furthermore, 50 years ago that corporate R&D took place at a more fundamental level than it did now; it was research oriented but ultimately intended to fill up a company's technology bin.  This sort of corporate research is gone.  Most "R&D" is very narrow term, e.g. "we need the next release of Windows, and then the release after that because Windows 8 cratered."  

    Then there's pure research.  This doesn't get done except with government grants and/or billionaires who like science.  (The latter aren't as common as they used to be; 15% taxes on unearned income will do that.)  It's the stuff that, even in the early 1960s corporate mindset, is too inapplicable to anything commercial.

    All of this is going down the tubes.  Even universities acting as corporate product development groups are getting defunded; who needs product development when you can just remarket something else?  

    •  According the OECD stats (0+ / 0-)

      US business enterprise basic research increased from $2.8 to $13.5 billion in constant 2005 dollars between 1981 and 2009. Alone, business enterprise basic research spending currently exceeds purely government directed expenditure of $10 billion.  Both public and private entities contribute to private non-profit and higher education basic research (where the bulk of it occurs) to the tune of $8.5 billion and $37 billion respectively.

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