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Why ‘the sex life of the screwworm’ deserves taxpayer do

 
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enemigo



Joined: 19 Mar 2003
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PostPosted: Thu Apr 26, 2012 12:09 pm    Post subject: Why ‘the sex life of the screwworm’ deserves taxpayer do Reply with quote

Why ‘the sex life of the screwworm’ deserves taxpayer dollars

Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.) believes it is time the sex life of the screwworm got its due.

On Wednesday afternoon, Cooper rose to the defense of taxpayer-funded research into dog urine, guinea pig eardrums and, yes, the reproductive habits of the parasitic flies known as screwworms--all federally supported studies that have inspired major scientific breakthroughs. Together with two House Republicans and a coalition of major science associations, Cooper has created the first annual Golden Goose Awards to honor federally funded research “whose work may once have been viewed as unusual, odd, or obscure, but has produced important discoveries benefiting society in significant ways.”

Federally-funded research of dog urine ultimately gave scientists and understanding of the effect of hormones on the human kidney, which in turn has been helpful for diabetes patients. A study called “Acoustic Trauma in the Guinea Pig” resulted in treatment of early hearing loss in infants. And that randy screwworm study? It helped researchers control the population of a deadly parasite that targets cattle--costing the government $250,000 but ultimately saving the cattle industry more than $20 billion, according to Cooper’s office.

Cooper says that his original inspiration for the Golden Goose Award was the long-running “Golden Fleece Awards” that the late Sen. William Proxmire (D-Wisc.) bestowed upon the most wasteful government spending, beginning in 1975. More recently, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) has taken up that mantle. In a report last year on the National Science Foundation, Coburn blasted frivolous-sounding research that received federal funding, including one study that put shrimp on miniature treadmills and another that asked smokers to mail in their toenail clippings.

Cooper himself can’t be accused of being a free-spending liberal:As a member of the Blue Dog Caucus that sponsored the Simpson-Bowles plan on the House floor, his own deficit reduction proposals have garnered praise from prominent fiscal conservatives. The two House Republicans who helped him unveil the Golden Goose Awards--named after Aesop’s fable of “the goose that laid the golden egg”-- also voted for Sen. Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) most recent budget. But the congressmen stress that federal money spent on basic scientific research is well worth the upfront investment.

“When we invest in science, we also invest in jobs. Research and development is a key part to any healthy economy,” said Rep. Robert Dold (R-Ill.) at Wednesday’s press conference. “It’s critical, and the federal government has an important role to play,” said Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Penn.), who described how injecting horses with snake venom might “seem peculiar” but led to the discovery of the first anti-venom.

The group also wants their colleagues--and the broader public--to understand that investing in science means that the research failures are part of the process, as well. “There has never been a scientific project with guaranteed success...a single breakthrough can counter a thousand failures,” says Cooper.

The congressmen point out that funding basic science research has a long history of bipartisan support. House Speaker, Newt Gingrich helped double the budget of the National Institutes of Health in the 1990s, for instance. But the recent draconian rounds of budget cuts have repeatedly threatened funding for basic research at the NIH, National Science Foundation, and other major federal bodies.

So far, Congress has mostly spared basic science research funding, even increasing it slightly at the NIH and NSF for 2012. But Cooper warns that cuts could still be looming: at a recent Defense committee hearing, lawmakers were considering a $50 billion cut to the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) for 2013, according to the Tennessee Democrat--part of the defense budget sequester that will start kicking in at the end of 2012.

“We are absolutely concerned--they need to be smart and strategic about cuts,” said Gene Irisari, a lobbyist for Texas Instruments who’s been working the Hill to fend off spending reductions for research.

So while it may be premature to tout the benefits of studying “sweaty tree frogs” on the Hill — a research subject that Cooper says would have “gotten me laughed out of Congress” — you never know how it will look in 20 years. “We create what every previous generation would have described as magic,” he concludes.
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mrpink



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PostPosted: Sat May 05, 2012 4:08 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

so if a $250k investment saves the cattle industry $50 billion(we'll just assume it's a positive to save the cattle industry money...); why dont they just pony up the dough themselves? how much do they spend on lobbyist to save themselves $250k i wonder?
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yossarian



Joined: 19 Mar 2003
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Location: I'm somewhere where I don't know where I am.

PostPosted: Mon May 07, 2012 11:31 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

mrpink wrote:
so if a $250k investment saves the cattle industry $50 billion(we'll just assume it's a positive to save the cattle industry money...); why dont they just pony up the dough themselves? how much do they spend on lobbyist to save themselves $250k i wonder?


But you're looking at it after the fact. The research wasn't planned to save the cattle industry the money. They did scientific inquiry and it happened to have application with the cattle industry. The cattle industry itself would certainly spend the money if they knew it would save them the money, but they don't know up front. The point is that general scientific research should be funded because it's good for the economy / country as a whole. But the research doesn't have a clear economic benefit ahead of time.
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enemigo



Joined: 19 Mar 2003
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PostPosted: Tue May 08, 2012 10:58 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

what tim said.

the entire point is that there is no immediate practical application, and thus no money to make it happen, and so it likely never would have been found if not for the basic research.
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enemigo



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PostPosted: Fri May 18, 2012 7:46 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Also on the government-funded research front:

The government spends billions on research. Should we have to pay $20,000 more to see the results?
by Suzy Khimm

Taxpayers fund a ton of government research — and the results can get stuck behind a paywall that tops $20,000. Should they be able to see them without paying a second time around?

That’s a question Congress could take up, thanks to Rep. Mike Doyle (D-Pa.), who has introduced bipartisan legislation that requires free, online access to the results of federally funded research six months after it’s been published. “The public has a right to see the results,” he declared from a podium at the Brookings Institute on Wednesday. But opponents of Doyle’s bill say that’s not fair to the journals that actually select the work that’s fit to publish and depend on subscriptions to stay in business.

Doyle and his supporters point out that the best research often ends up being published in prestigious journals with pricey paywalls: Subscription fees can range from a few hundred dollars to more than $20,000 per year. Individual articles can be $50 a pop. As a result, the published work is walled off from the vast majority of Americans — whether they’re a researcher at a cash-strapped lab or an Iowa farmer who wants the latest on a new strain of pest-resistant corn.

It’s not just a question of fairness, but of economic, social and scientific value, the open-access camp argues. “The more people look at a problem, the more ways there are of solving a problem,” added Elliot Maxwell, a fellow at Johns Hopkins University. “It’s more utility from the research that [the government] pays for.” Maxwell points to studies showing that freely available research is cited more, inspires more follow-up projects and results in more rapidly commercialized products — one example being the open-access Human Genome Project, which scientists have used to link certain genes to diseases more often than its paywalled alternative.

Federal agencies already appear to be moving in this direction: The National Institutes of Health implemented its own open-access policy four years ago, requiring researchers who received NIH grants to make their findings freely available one year after publication. The number of articles downloaded has doubled over the past three years, with about 500,000 visitors on any given weekday in 2011, according to the NIH.

Journal publishers, however, are less than thrilled: They contend that they provide a valuable service by curating what research merits attention and what does not. Through open access, the government is exploiting the journal publishers’ work without compensating them accordingly, argues Allan Adler, a lobbyist for the American Publishers Association. Taxpayers fund national parks, for instance, but “they still have to pay a fee if they want to go in, and certainly if they want to camp,” Adler says. He adds that it’s not just U.S. taxpayers who get to view open-access work for free: Two-thirds of those accessing free NIH papers were outside the United States.

You don’t have to look far to see how the move from paid subscription to open, online access has decimated other sectors of the publishing industry. Adler notes that the small minority of open-access publishers typically have foundation grants or some other source of income to sustain themselves. When asked whether he feared research journals could go the way of print news media, Adler said that journal publishers would simply “feel more comfortable dealing with market challenges by themselves, without the government putting their thumb on the scale.”

Open-access advocates, in turn, argue that an embargo period could let publishers recoup the value of what they provide. Deep-pocketed research institutions would be likely to pay a premium not to wait for results to be publicly released. Maxwell points out that there’s little evidence showing that scientific journals went out of business after the NIH enacted its open-access policy. What’s more, journals could raise their profiles and gain readers by removing their paywalls, he says.

It’s the siren song of the Internet, after all: more readers, higher impact. And for journals that only ever reach a tiny handful of specialists, it could have some appeal. But it’s not a business model that has a great track record so far on the publishers’ side of the equation.
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djy



Joined: 01 Apr 2005
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PostPosted: Tue May 22, 2012 9:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

enemigo wrote:
what tim said.

the entire point is that there is no immediate practical application, and thus no money to make it happen, and so it likely never would have been found if not for the basic research.


Seriously? A one-dimensional analysis does it for you? Dig deeper.
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enemigo



Joined: 19 Mar 2003
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PostPosted: Fri May 25, 2012 11:01 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

please enlighten us with your usual four-dimensional analysis.
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