Tuesday, April 21

Response to "Science the Endless Frontier"

There are many things that one can respond to from not only these excerpts but also the entire report, but what caught my attention was Bush’s discussion in respect to higher education and its role with basic research.

First, I think that Bush’s description of colleges and universities, and the environment that they provide for scientists is something to think about. And, I would have to say that it is difficult to disagree with him. Why wouldn’t a scientist want a place to work where they don’t have to worry about outside pressures? For a student pursuing science, is it not beneficial for them to be in such an environment? Also, I would suggest that scientists would have more time to teach, due to not having to spend so much of their time dealing with certain pressures or politics.

So why is it not like this? Bush suggests elsewhere in his report that it is because of the government and industry applying all of these pressures on universities. They want to know answers to certain problems so they look to these scientists to solve them. But, is that really the role of the scientist? As Bush notes scientists should be allowed to pursue basic research, and not feel pressured to have to answer certain questions. Don’t get me wrong, I still think scientists should be held accountable for their research and be willing to discuss its implications on society, however, their research should not be pursued only for the reason to answer a question someone else is asking.

Second, what I find most concerning about Bush’s report is that it was written in 1945 and that it is 64 years later, and the only thing I can think of is, has our country really even changed or progressed since then? Universities and the scientists at these institutes are still looked to for the answers. Many research grants offered by the NIH (a government agency) are specific questions and are looking for answers. Also similar to what Bush pointed out, barriers still need to be removed for people in respect to higher education. The cost of education is continuing to increase (take Washington universities for example), and continuing to cause people to not attend higher education, or to have drop out of higher education because they cannot afford it. Yes there are some funds/grants/scholarships/etc. available for individuals in such situations, but in reality it isn’t enough. Money should not prevent those who have the drive and want to attend higher education from attending.

However, what is being done to address these issues? At times it is difficult to tell if anything is, and that people keep telling themselves during these times that something is happening. But these people need to obviously open their eyes and see the real picture. They need to look at how even though science has progressed in the past 64 years, could we be farther if individuals in research weren't constantly dealing with outside pressures? I would suggest that things would look different if some of these pressures and the barriers to higher education were removed.

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