November 8, 2005 4:00 AM PST

Research money crunch in the U.S.

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to increase spending on science by an extra $10 billion per year. Some of the increase would be used to fund more basic research in the physical sciences.

Many in the research community also believe that the research being conducted today is too focused on short-term, market-oriented results. The current DARPA policy, which mandates 12-month "go, no go" research milestones for information technology, has shortened deadlines, thus discouraging long-term research. And with more research focused on national security, programs formerly open to academics are now classified. DARPA has also slashed spending on academic research.

"Traditionally funding in computer sciences has come from the U.S. government," Kleinrock said. "And it's contributed to some remarkable advances, such as the Internet and artificial intelligence. They (the government) used to step back and with some direction let you go develop something new. But that's not the case today. And DARPA is no longer thinking long-range."

More competition, fewer dollars
The effects have been significant. In the last five years, IT proposals to the National Science Foundation jumped from 2,000 to 6,500, forcing the agency to leave many proposals unfunded. Other agencies, such as NASA, have also reduced spending on communications research. Since most government funding comes only from these two sources, researchers are flocking toward the NSF as DARPA cuts back or changes its priorities.

"There is much more competition for far less money," Kleinrock said. "And the result is researchers are spending more time writing proposals that never get funded...We're losing our leadership in engineering. And that will have an effect on the economy."

Private industry isn't expected to pick up the slack where the government falls short, experts say. For the past several decades, the high-tech industry has become increasingly dependent on government-funded research partnerships with academic institutions to spur innovations. Companies such as Cisco Systems partner with researchers in academia, rather than operating their own large-scale research labs focused on long-range issues. Only a handful, like IBM, Sun Microsystems and Microsoft, maintain large and growing research arms.

"The competitive nature of these industries means they can no longer fund research that offers benefits for humanity," when the research has no immediate return in investment for the company, Lucky said.

But some researchers say they understand the tough decisions the companies and politicians have to make in choosing how much they allocate to science and how they actually spend their research money.

"There are trade-offs," said Robert Kahn, a co-developer of the TCP/IP protocols used to transmit traffic across the Internet, and CEO of the Corporation for National Research Initiatives. "Do you spend one penny on R&D, or a dollar on national security? These are the tough choices that have to be made."

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Greed and Ignorance
The greed of the war industry that uses what scientific investment we do have for more killing machines. Corporate and governmental ignorance, that thinks we can continue to sap the talent of other countries instead of investing in our own citizenry. Just look how well it worked in the UK.
Posted by Mister C (423 comments )
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Yeah, and the sky is falling too
Funny that articles like this always use the phrase "Falling behind" without bothering to mention exactly which countries out there are zooming ahead of us, doing the wise, sage-like long-term research that we're supposedly too greedy to do. Who is it? Bangladesh? Panama? Benin? France? (LOL)

"Falling behind" refers to relative position, not that any journalists seem capable of understanding that. Those of you younger than about 35 might not realize that everyone knew we were falling hopelessly behind the fearsome Japanese in the late 80's, becuase we were too greedy and pinheaded to develop the analog HDTV that every news reporter knew we absolutely needed.

I've been hearing this nonsense my whole adult life. Somehow we seem to get by better than the rest. Those on the receiving end will always want more money.

Just for fun I'd like to hear a researcher complain that he's being showered with too much cash, and that we're in danger of geeting too far ahead of other countries.
Posted by MikeDson (50 comments )
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What, me worry?
And if you are over 50 you may have heard of Fisher Electronics or maybe Mcintosh Stereo, both US companies that made some of the finest Stereo equipment available. How about Ampex, they developed the VCR. U.S. companies are now just bit players in the consumer electronics market. When I think of high quality car stereo, RCA is the name that jumps to my mind.

What happened? We should own those markets. In the early 70's there were hundreds of thriving U.S. electronics companies. By the end of the 80's they were all gone (along with their well paying jobs).

You have been hearing it all your life because it is true. When I was a kid in the fifties everyone bragged about Americans having the highest standard of living in the world. No one talks that way any more because we are falling further behind every year. What happened to one parent working and the other taking care of the kids. Fifty years ago 1 wage earner could support a family but not anymore. The sad truth is it takes 2 good incomes to be middle class in America today. How many kids still live at home well into their 20's and 30's because they just can't make it on their own.

It may look good on the surface but many people are in hock right up to their necks. Miss a couple of paychecks and they are done. We may get by better then India or China or Mexico but what about Europe (except for the UK which is where we are headed). Who comes to this country anymore? The Einsteins, Plancks, etc. I don't think so. It is primarily 3rd worlders.

While it may be true we spend a lot on research compared to the UK the majority is military related. And who is getting our advanced degrees? At last count more then half were going to people with at least one parent who is foreign born. To answer your question "exactly which countries out there are zooming ahead of us"? Just about everyone including China, India, Europe, Taiwan etc. If you would care to investigate there is a real good article from the National Academy of Sciences, located here:
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So the next time you pick up some piece of high-tech equipment look on the back and see where it was made and then tell me if you think the sky is falling or are we just living in a fog.
Posted by Mister C (423 comments )
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Government spends far more here
than in any European country, and even Europe as a whole spends a tiny fraction of what researchers get here.

Coming from the UK, where we'd be lucky if the government spent a few million on R&#38;D projects for public benefit, I find it amazing the amount public research projects get here.

Even private industry get's very little in the way of handouts from European governments, personally I think researchers ought to count there blessings in this country.

132 billion dollars is probably 132 times the amount the entire continent of Europe spends.
Posted by ajbright (447 comments )
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