This is something I have shared with others previously. It has been lightly edited since I first wrote this for a different platform in January of 2017.
I’m baffled by the recent decisions to slash research funding and the talk of gag orders on science(and many more), and the only explanation I can think of is that as scientists, we have failed to communicate to the public exactly what we do, and how impactful it is. Here is my stab at explaining why I feel publicly funded research is so valuable:
If you or someone you know survived cancer, I can almost guarantee that was possible due to government funded research.
If you or someone you know has survived their entire life without polio, diptheria, Hepatitis A or B (and many more), I can tell you that is due to government funded research.
If you or someone you know has used a GPS (in their phone, in their car, ever), I can tell you that is due to government funded research.
If you, or someone you know, has been diagnosed with a viral infection, or had someone look at their genome to determine if you have an increased risk for certain diseases, I can almost guarantee that you were diagnosed with a technique developed in the 80’s that was only possible due to government funding hot springs research at Yellowstone National Park in the 60’s (look up the history of PCR, it’s fascinating!).
If you or someone you know enjoys camping, hiking, skiing, sailing, kayaking, hunting, or simply walking around in beautiful state/national parks, the lands that host those activities have benefited from government funded research.
There are countless other examples. Research in any field is complicated, and sometimes it isn’t commercially useful right away (like the hot springs research I mentioned above), but often has extraordinary impacts on our lives. And while I sometimes don’t understand the impact of a particular research project, I can sleep knowing that it is in the pursuit of understanding how the world around us works, and that armed with this knowledge we can one day fit that knowledge into the rest of the puzzle of human knowledge and make peoples’ lives better.
I encourage scientists to speak up and communicate their research to the public. I encourage everyone to speak up when science is threatened. Facts should not be silenced, whether they come from scientists, journalists, or anyone else.
If you feel upset, please get involved. “Countable” is a great mobile app to quickly see and give your opinion on what your elected officials are doing. Regardless who you voted for in this election, please join me in looking at facts. Real facts. Ideally facts published by credible journals, or even better, in peer reviewed journals.