Thursday, January 27, 2011

times are tough, yes (article post)

while procrastinating, i stumbled onto this article from NPR:
On Your Knees, Professor!
by Robert Krulwich
10:31 am, January 27, 2011

The science crowd is nervous. The President wants to create more jobs, but come this fall, funding for the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (what you and I call the "stimulus program") starts to wind down.

After two glorious years, science researchers all over America will face what they are now calling "The Cliff;" to replace their grants from Uncle Sam they're going to have to find new funders, get on their knees and do that thing they've always had to do...umm, what's the word?


It's not like they don't know how. Scientists have been begging for money for centuries, as have writers, artists, poets. It's an art form.

(and so it continues, for a little longer.)
not being familiar with laboratories in the sciences, this sounds like a problem only for those labs who have been created in the last two years (which could be a great many).

there have been labs before the current administration, right? (-;

there is a point to this, though: the author probably meant something else.

my experimentalist acquaintances have told me before that many of them are not often paid by their universities, but directly through their grants. so if the federal science budget shrinks to smaller than pre-stimulus levels, then some labs will go under (possibly a great many).
as a mathematician, this idea is a strange one to me, if only because there are few mathematical centers in the u.s. that are run purely by research funds.

sure, there may be superstars at micrοsoft research and similar posh places. for those of us researchers in the "(petite) bourgeoisie" of mathematical society, though, teaching is an inseparable part of our weekly grind.

our livelihoods are intertwined with those of university budgets and enrollments. so as long as students need to take calcuιus classes, most of us will still have a job.
i'm not saying that we mathmos don't have to "beg," a word that Krulwich seems to like. i suppose that journalists are a well-off lot who needn't worry about the future of their industry.

if we mathematicians are beggars, then we beg from a different affluence. let the scientists fret (if indeed they are fretting).

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