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Scientists Stage Funerals To Protest Against Cuts — a New Trend? 263

Posted by Soulskill
from the sweet-zombie-einstein dept.
ananyo writes "Physicists, chemists and mathematicians in the UK are campaigning against their chief public funder (EPSRC) over reforms that they say threaten blue-skies research, kicking off their protest by toting a coffin to the Prime Minister in Downing Street. The reforms are a response to declining budgets and political pressure to focus science on areas that will produce economic benefits for the UK. Last month, over 2000 Canadian scientists marched to Parliament Hill with a coffin to protest against the Harper government's cuts to basic research and scientific facilities, which they believe undermine the quality of scientific evidence in government. With budget cuts to science expected in the U.S., is it time for scientists in U.S. — and perhaps elsewhere — to think about getting their retaliation in first and ready their coffins?"
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Scientists Stage Funerals To Protest Against Cuts — a New Trend?

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  • Who cares? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 01, 2012 @04:09PM (#40847485)

    There is an educated minority who does obviously but big business that can't make use of curiosity based research in the immediate quarter doesn't care, Joe Sixpack who is fearing unemployment due to a massive recession doesn't care. Political powers that are trying to "stabilize" the middle east by shooting at it don't care.

    So who, with power, cares?

  • Death of evidence (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Hatta (162192) on Wednesday August 01, 2012 @04:13PM (#40847545) Journal

    This is intentional. They deliberately impoverish the intellectual community so that few will be able to question what government does. If no one has hard data, the government can do what it wants. If hard data is available, the government has to take that into consideration. Behind every anti-intellectual is an authoritarian.

    • but the governments already do whatever they want. The one percent isn't the rich, its the politicians. The have deliberately impoverished us all to assert more control over our lives. Then through their near infinite channels of influence they set one group against another all the while offering laws to protect each for each other.

      If those UK scientist want to see their budget, I think they can still get tickets. There appear to lots of empty seats

    • Or, you know, we could be in the middle of a worldwide financial meltdown where hard decisions have to be made.
      Governments love to fund scientists, especially when those scientists come to conclusions that convienently give authoritarians the excuse to take more money and power.
      Even considering that, however, sometimes, you just run out of other people's money to borrow and/or take.

      • by Hatta (162192)

        Or, you know, we could be in the middle of a worldwide financial meltdown where hard decisions have to be made.

        All the more reason to keep these steady middle class jobs around so there's more demand for services in the economy. And we're not just talking about scientists. There's support staff, people who repair equipment, companies that manufacture reagents. If you're looking for a "shovel ready" project that will have positive ripple effects throughout the economy, basic research should be at the top

    • by sdguero (1112795)
      I don't buy the authoritarian conspiracy theories. It's more about priorities and currently there is little to no interest in the general populace towards science and research. Just look at what is trending on facebook... People care about sports, taxes, gay marriage, gun laws, Beiber fever, religion, and about 16 other things before they care about scientific research (unless it's a "green" science, people are still somewhat excited about GW, nuclear power, and recycling because they have been so politici
      • by Hatta (162192)

        I don't buy the authoritarian conspiracy theories. It's more about priorities

        It's not a conspiracy theory and it is about priorities. Authoritarians don't value knowledge, so they place it at a low priority. Conservatives don't have to meet in secret to hatch a plan to kill science. They just follow their own self interest in not funding people who are likely to oppose them with facts.

        currently there is little to no interest in the general populace towards science and research. Just look at what is trend

        • by sdguero (1112795)
          So by "they" in your original post, you meant "conservatives." And you are saying the the general populace wants to like science but is somehow being tricked into liking other less important things by a small group of conservative authoritarians?

          I don't buy that. And I'd argue that both sides of the political spectrum are equally to blame. The SSC and SEI projects were shut down under Clinton's watch, and the Obama administration cancelled the Ares program in 2010 (even though they didn't cancel the cons
  • by rgbrenner (317308) on Wednesday August 01, 2012 @04:14PM (#40847549)

    We can't cut social security because old people will starve in the streets.
    We can't cut the drug benefits because old people can't afford their medication.
    We can't cut the military, or our enemies will attack us.
    We can't cut unemployment benefits, because people are unemployed.
    We can't cut benefits to the poor because the poor need help.
    We can't cut support to the bank industry because they need help to recover.
    And apparently, we also can't cut science funding, or scientists will die.

    The government is huge because people never want to give up ANYTHING. It's always "the other guy" who should pay.

    Well when you have a massive debt, everyone has to give up something.. and that includes (unfortunately) scientists. Maybe those researching "blue skies" projects that have gone no where should be cut.

    • Well across the board budget cuts are fine. But when science gets cut at the expense of the military(which ever keeps rising), it is not acceptable.

      • by jpmorgan (517966)

        In Canada, where these protests occurred, the military's budget was one of the hardest cut.

        • It was only made to pay for the Arctic unfriendly F35.
          We should have started a program called Avrow Arrow 2 with that money, using every willing members of the original team as mentor to the most patriotic areonauthic PhD students (Yeah, select them on patriotism, but tell them that the selection is based on intelligence) ...
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      We can't cut social security because old people will starve in the streets.
      We can't cut the drug benefits because old people can't afford their medication.
      We can't cut the military, or our enemies will attack us.
      We can't cut unemployment benefits, because people are unemployed.
      We can't cut benefits to the poor because the poor need help.
      We can't cut support to the bank industry because they need help to recover.
      And apparently, we also can't cut science funding, or scientists will die.

      The government is huge because people never want to give up ANYTHING. It's always "the other guy" who should pay.

      Well when you have a massive debt, everyone has to give up something.. and that includes (unfortunately) scientists. Maybe those researching "blue skies" projects that have gone no where should be cut.

      This is exactly why the US will follow Spain, Italy, Greece, and others because the politicians are too afraid to lose their jobs instead of doing their jobs. Two things need to done in the US.
      1) Amendment: A Representative or Senator cannot serve more than two consecutive terms (and yes I know they serve for different time periods).
      2) Amendment: Corporations, Unions, Lobbyist groups, Not For Profit, any organization do not have the same First Amendment rights as an individual.

      • I'm always curious as to why people think getting rid of professional politicians will help things. One of the great things that Britain has always had is a tradition of long-serving politicians who create a sort of central group of experienced men and women who have been in and out government. From these ranks you produce people like Gladstone, Churchill and Thatcher. It's ludicrous to force out your most experienced people in any profession simply because you think fresh air alone is enough to fix the pro

        • by Loughla (2531696)
          The problem isn't long-term politicians, the problem is that long-term politicians become easy targets for large money interest groups. Capping their terms is often viewed as the easiest way to end that entrenched issue. But, as with most things, there is no silver bullet. . . . .
          • But those politicians have districts and states. They are answerable to the voter. Rather than creating artificial barriers and basically throwing the baby (in this case the experienced lawmaker) out with the bathwater, it strikes me the better solution is try to encourage the voters to become part of the political process.

            It's not as if first or second term politicians are not vulnerable to interest groups. The political process is poisoned by money from the very start. The solution isn't getting rid of pr

            • by Loughla (2531696)
              Okay then, other than improved voter participation, how do you suggest that we remove the billions of dollars of special interest money from the process?

              AND, further, how do you propose that we guarantee that big media and the like won't skew the stories to condition people to think a certain way about the candidate of their choice?

              And as a side note, I didn't say that I agreed with it, I was simply explaining it as you asked,

              I'm always curious as to why people think getting rid of professional politicians will help things.

              • Simple. Tax the living shit out of all political donations and disallow political advertising as an expense that can reduce net income.

        • From these ranks you produce people like ... Thatcher.

          You're right! We could do with someone to destroy the last vestiges of industry which have managed to thrive despite the best efforts of successive governments.

        • by VoidCrow (836595)

          Thatcher wasn't such a great example.

    • If you start chipping at those things which represent future prosperity, all you're doing is pulling down the walls. Rome started going down the tubes when it began debasing its currency. It meant ultimately less artisans, tradesmen, a less professional army, less civil servants and in the end, complete collapse.

      • by gl4ss (559668)

        well you have to either do cuts or debase currency.

        that's just math.

        (alternatively, raise taxes)

        • In this situation, I think measured cuts and tax increases are by far the more sensible solution. Yes, tax increases do have a retarding effect on the economy, but that can be overstated.

          Unfortunately, tax policy isn't developed by sensible people, it's developed by people more interested in short term political gain.

    • by TheRaven64 (641858) on Wednesday August 01, 2012 @04:29PM (#40847745) Journal

      Well when you have a massive debt, everyone has to give up something.. and that includes (unfortunately) scientists

      Science is not a cost, it's an investment. You don't fix the economy by stopping spending money on things that will give a return.

      Maybe those researching "blue skies" projects that have gone no where should be cut.

      The departments where people only do research that is guaranteed to work are usually the weaker ones. Good research addresses problems where the solution isn't known, where there are only some approximate ideas about what it may be, and where failure is likely. A big problem in academia today is exactly the attitude in your post - that people who do research that may fail should be penalised.

      • Investments are voluntary. Taxes are not.
      • by rgbrenner (317308)

        Who said they should be penalized? If your project has failed, you don't get to keep working on it forever. MOVE ON to your next project.

        That is not a penalty. A penalty would be not allowing you on a new project because of your previous failure. No where did I suggest that.

      • The departments where people only do research that is guaranteed to work are usually the weaker ones. Good research addresses problems where the solution isn't known, where there are only some approximate ideas about what it may be, and where failure is likely. A big problem in academia today is exactly the attitude in your post - that people who do research that may fail should be penalised.

        Somebody give him a medal for actually thinking through the problem.

        I would argue (I don't have hard facts) that MOST "scientific discoveries" are not actually found as a direct result of being sought-after. If not "most" then certainly lots-and-lots were accidental/coincidental or peripheral discoveries. There are SO MANY discoveries resulting from "WTF was THAT?" turning into something useful (Penicillin, Viagra, Teflon, Vulcanization of Rubber, Cellophane, Microwave Oven) rather than something that was

    • This contradicts "The Law of Budgetary Circumcision."

      You can cut 5% off the top of ANYTHING.

    • by mcgrew (92797) * on Wednesday August 01, 2012 @04:56PM (#40848113) Homepage Journal

      Well when you have a massive debt, everyone has to give up something

      No you don't. You can increase revenue. The 1% own something like 75% of everything, they can afford it. FUCKING DOUBLE THEIR TAXES! History has shown that high taxes on the rich do NOT harm the economy.

      • by Loughla (2531696)

        History has shown that high taxes on the rich do NOT harm the economy.

        They do when the rich arbitrarily make decisions to fuck the rest of us if we tax them more. Humans are one thing consistently: spiteful and greedy.

      • History has shown that high taxes on the rich do NOT harm the economy

        History has also shown [mercatus.org] that higher taxes != higher revenue, but that's not your point, is it?

    • The root of all the trouble is the fact that we no longer seem to understand that the private sector has to lead. Government funds come from taxes and if you crush the private sector through taxation and regulation tax revenue dives. (Google "Laffer curve" if you need an explanation), You can spend all the tax money you want on research but if you kill the private sector you lose both revenue AND a huge alternate source of innovation that costs the taxpayer nothing.

      The funeral shouldn't be for science bu

  • by crazyjj (2598719) * on Wednesday August 01, 2012 @04:15PM (#40847567)

    Actually, (with the U.S. government at least) we're worse than broke. Broke would imply we at least had nothing. We would actually have to earn about $15 trillion to be broke.

    So no, we DON'T have the money. We have these pieces of paper that SAY "money" on them. But they only work because no one has figured out yet that they're worthless.

    • by trout007 (975317)

      On the plus side we only owe $15 trillion of those pieces of paper that SAY "money" on them. And like you said they are worthless. So we really owe nothing and are in fact broke.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by MightyMartian (840721)

      Oh Christ, would you fucking Ron Paulites shut the fuck up. Jesus, none of you know a fucking thing about economics, just mouthing "fiat currency is baaaaad" like semi-retarded sheep.

      The value of a fiat currency isn't based on nothing, it's based on a huge number of factors, including net economic output, GDP and so forth. Much more sensible than basing it on how much fucking gold the government is sitting on, which is utterly arbitrary and has little or nothing to do with the actual economic life of the co

      • by cpu6502 (1960974)

        How do you know that guy is a Ron Paulite? You don't know that, anymore than you know what color he is. You're just setting-up random strawmen and knocking them down, rather than addressing the man you responded to.

        As for fiat currency:

        The fact it has lost 97% of its value since 1913 is reason enough to seek something better. The gold-backed dollar the Founders created may not have been perfect but it was certainly better than that. It lost only 1% of its value from 1810 to 1910. A monetary supply that

        • Based on what? Money in circulation? I mean, what's your metric here? How does it make any sense?

          And yes, the guy is a Ron Paulite, as is the lunatic that just posted a reply to your post.

      • by sdguero (1112795)
        I think anyone who knows what the term "fiat money" means, is more informed on economics than average.

        Historically, fiat currencies work great and boost economic output; for a decade or so. Then hyperinflation hits and they fall apart. The stronger the economy, and more dependent the rest of the world is on it, the longer it lasts; but no fiat currency has ever avoided inflation. http://www.europac.net/voices/experience_teacher_fools [europac.net]

        That said, there are some great opportunities in times of inflation o
  • by Antipater (2053064) on Wednesday August 01, 2012 @04:16PM (#40847573)
    Claims of arcane knowledge. Doomsday prophecies. Now they're ceremonially delivering coffins to world leaders!

    I wonder how long before they start devouring human flesh?

  • Maybe they should use a giant urn instead of a coffin, to represent the result of the giant flaming failure of the future ahead of us under proposed budget cuts to basic scientific research? It would symbolically include the future economy as we fall further and further behind other countries in scientific knowledge and capability.

    • by gman003 (1693318)

      Less graphically iconic.

      An urn is just a jar. Not as visually unique as a coffin. A coffin may be just a box, but it's a very particular box. An urn can really be any shape.

      Not to mention the fact that, at least in the western world, coffin burials are far more common than cremation, and thus death is more strongly associated with coffins than urns.

  • by Dan667 (564390) on Wednesday August 01, 2012 @04:31PM (#40847771)
    no cuts to science funding needed. Problem solved.
    • by Mashiki (184564)

      The Liberals in Canada spent years gutting the military. To the point where it was putting the lives of the soldiers in direct jeopardy. I could fill the entire comment box full of stories with from friends and family who were or are in the military about the flying, riding, doomed death traps that we gave our servicemen and women up here. And to be honest? It got so bloody bad, we were renting military equipment from the US and UK because ours was so unsafe.

      They're welcome to put on whatever song and d

      • by Loughla (2531696)

        And there's the problem; it always comes down to morals and opinions. Is the life of a scientist or the life of a soldier more valuable?

        Is it better to spend $10 trillion on guns, barracks, flak jackets, soldier pay and pensions, health care for vets and the like, or on chemicals, labs, lab-coats (I don't really know how scientists dress anymore. . . .), scientist pay and pensions, and health care and the like for people trying to do science? (does one 'do' science?)

        One is not inherently more valuable than

        • by stanlyb (1839382)
          The simple answer is NO and NO. Or with other words: NO to both groups. Or with even more words: GET A DECENT JOB you ^%^$^$^$^$^
          • by Loughla (2531696)
            Wait, are you telling soldiers and scientists to get decent jobs? Or are you telling me to get a decent job? Your thesis statement is confusing.
            • by stanlyb (1839382)
              The soldiers of course, not you, unless you are soldier too?
              • by Loughla (2531696)

                I'm not, but being a soldier is a decent job. Here in the states, when a river floods, the first on the scene are soldiers. When there is a relief effort for victims of a natural disaster of any kind, generally soldiers are the first there to help.

                For many, being a soldier is the only way to pay for college effectively. or to increase their experience before looking for full-time employment - a means to an end, or, as you put it, to help them "GET A DECENT JOB".

    • by Meeni (1815694)

      To some extent, these are one and the same. DOE, Darpa and DoD budgets are massive contributors to science funding in general, even in pure academia (aka outside national labs).

  • by Anonymous Coward

    We Canadians weren't protesting because of general science funding cuts. Budgets get rearranged. The economy is in shambles. We accept that.

    The "Death of evidence" protest formed because cuts were being very carefully targeted: If your research produced results that suggested the Harper Government (tm) might be making a dumb decision, your research was ignored, suppressed, and eventually canned.

    Statistics Canada has never lost control of any personal information. Never. So the long-form census gets scrapped

    • by stanlyb (1839382)
      What you mean by "scientists" we recognize as "research associate". Man, i wonder if we say "rocket scientist" what would you see? Alien Einstein!!!
    • Mod parent he is spot on !
    • Traitorous politicians like Harper and a great many in the USA only care about winning AT ALL COST. The nation and the democracy do not matter they are not actually important, only winning the "war". Anybody who is not "one of us" must be cleansed of the body politic and naturally these lesser people are to be despised. This kind of fanaticism is as old as civilization and it always starts out minor then it grows until it is extreme enough and/or large enough that a majority can see it (usually it has to

  • Is this really a surprise at all? If these scientists had to raise their own funding via private means, this wouldn't be news at all. This is just wasted time, energy and smart minds rent seeking the government. Move along.

  • Piss off too many scientists and they will go back in time and step on the fish that eventually became your entire family tree. Then again this is government cutting back funding....

  • Research keeps coming up with global warming and other nasty ideas that get in the way of oil and gas exploitation. Canada's government holds Alberta's interests above everyone else's. That won't change until the next election.
  • are doffing coffins?

    (er, sorry. carry on.)

  • by stanlyb (1839382) on Wednesday August 01, 2012 @05:30PM (#40848577)
    WELL DONE HAPRER. Let them eat their own shit. Just like the health insurance, and doctors, and nurses, and their GIGANTIC salaries, these guys needs to learn how to survive as the regular John does. By WORKING HARD. Not by eating for free, and drinking for free (free as a beer, with the annoying detail the we, the people are paying his beer...).
    As it was blown some time ago, do you know that one stupid little anesthesiologist makes $400 thousands Canadian dollars??? WTF??? Can you imagine how many patients he must manage in order to justify his salary? I could, but for some strange reason he does not do it.
    As of the "scientists", i wonder how many innovations do you happen to know made by them? Zero? Really? Then what is the point!!!
  • Will progess stop 10 years from now?

  • is Melodramatic. Marching with a coffin? Come on. I guess I would hope that such a group of people wouldn't stoop to that level for attention.

  • Most of the posts here seem to be of the "cut this or else cut that" ilk. Why not do the right thing and raise taxes, or in the USA case, return the tax rates on the very rich to what they once were, and change the business tax code to reflect some sort of reality. And then stop taxing capital gains less than "ordinary" income.

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