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Canada Government The Almighty Buck United Kingdom Science

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?

  • Re:Who cares? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by X0563511 (793323) on Wednesday August 01, 2012 @04:12PM (#40847529) Homepage Journal

    You outline the real problem: so many big businesses don't seem to care beyond the next quarter. Extreme nearsightedness, it seems.

    You don't ever seem to see them taking a hit for the NOW, looking towards a payoff on the LATER. Always it's now now now.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 01, 2012 @04:23PM (#40847665)

    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.

  • by SirSlud (67381) on Wednesday August 01, 2012 @04:26PM (#40847711) Homepage

    If you don't have anything informed to say, you could try saying nothing at all.

  • by serviscope_minor (664417) on Wednesday August 01, 2012 @04:28PM (#40847731) Journal

    And they shouldn't be subject to economic downturns eh?

    Absoloutely, the best way out of an economic downturn is to make sure you don't develop anything new.

    Also, you and the idiots who modded you up are idiots.

    The real think that's pissing off all the victims of the EPSRC incompetence is that the EPSRC fucked up its advocacy efforts and got much heavier funding cuts than the other members of RCUK.

    So, basically, you and the mods have no idea what you're talking about and decided to mod up inflammatory crap anyway.

  • 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.

  • by Dan667 (564390) on Wednesday August 01, 2012 @04:31PM (#40847771)
    no cuts to science funding needed. Problem solved.
  • by cpu6502 (1960974) on Wednesday August 01, 2012 @04:36PM (#40847857)

    Even if te government spent $10 trllion on research, but then announced "cuts" to a more-reasonable level, these guys would still protest. It's human nature never to be satisfied. You will never hear them say, "Oh well 10 trllion was outrageously high. Cuts to 7 trillion would be reasonable."

  • 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 Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 01, 2012 @05:01PM (#40848175)

    And they shouldn't be subject to economic downturns eh?

    Self important blowhards.

    Of course scientists are not saying that. Budgets have to be tightened for everyone if they are going to be balanced. What's being argued is that the cuts are disproportionate and clearly politically-motivated. This is especially apparent when you see what's being cut (a lot of environment-related research) and when you see the unreasonable excesses that continue for other government budget items. Two that come to mind are the ridiculously exorbitant pensions that MPs get after only a few years of public service, and the current government is quite happy to keep on funding the multi-billion-dollar F-35 stealth fighter acquisition, even as the costs for it have almost doubled. If the government truly wanted to balance the budget at all costs, then they'd re-open the fighter contract to have proper competitive bids, and consider settling for cheaper, proven aircraft such as the Super Hornet (F-18E/F). Sure, it wouldn't be cutting-edge, but it would be an upgrade over the current fighter fleet (mostly F-18s), it would be twin-engine (safer for remote operations), and a hell of a lot cheaper. The Super Hornet is the approach that Australia took while waiting for the F-35 to get into production. Sounds like a decent "austerity" approach to me. But, no, our supposedly budget-conscious government didn't even have a competitive bid process and is sticking to the expensive, unproven "Cadillac" model based on what they saw in the showroom.

    It can also be argued that if you are going to cut back, cutting government and educational science is a bad idea because it is akin to "eating the seed grain". You're cutting into your future prospects for growth. That might help a little with balancing the budget, but it's going to cost big down the line. Not necessarily a good tradeoff.

    Scientists aren't saying "Don't cut us, because we're privileged", they're saying "Wait a second. Why are you cutting us to the bone while these other programs have plenty of fat, and why are you cutting us when politicians need more information about scientific issues, not less?" There has been little public consultation to determine whether cutting science fits with the public's priorities too.

  • by Roger W Moore (538166) on Wednesday August 01, 2012 @07:08PM (#40849799) Journal

    Because these scientists are Special And they shouldn't be subject to economic downturns eh?

    In the last year or so the British government spent more money bailing out the banks that it has spent on science in the last 1,000 years. Now just pause and think about that for a second. Think about the world 1,000 years ago and where we are today because that difference is due primarily to science. If governments can blow more than 1,000 years worth of their science budget to bail out the very people whose greed created the economic down turn then you might think that they could find the relatively meagre pittance required to continue a program which has transformed our society.

    ...of course this may be part of the problem: it was far easier for those in power to deal with us troublesome peasants in the dark ages!

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