Yesterday, my latest blog post for Science Progress went live. It is about an attempt by Senators John McCain and Tom Coburn to pick through the scientific grants that resulted from the massive economic stimulus legislation, and try to pretend (baselessly) that this is wasted government spending. But of course, funding science creates jobs.
Consider, for example, a nearly $1 million NIH stimulus grant to Johns Hopkins University for a study on treatment options for drug abuse following inpatient care (such as counseling and follow-up care), which brought with it 86 jobs to support the large project. In other words, in this instance, medical knowledge and economic recovery will advance simultaneously.
And that’s just one of many such stories helpfully compiled on the ScienceWorksForUs website. It is important to remember that whenever major research projects get funded, the dollars tend to create a variety of university-based support jobs and graduate student livelihoods to carry out all aspects of the work. They also enable the retention of existing jobs that may otherwise have gone away, and perhaps also the hiring of professors and researchers.
McCain and Coburn ignore this context. Instead, they essentially mock various grants…
For instance, a malt liquor and marijuana study in Buffalo, New York, funded to the tune of $389,357. Coburn and McCain turn this entirely legitimate public health research inquiry into a joke, simply because the substances may have particular lifestyles associated with them. But so what? Young adults abuse these substances, and it is quite legitimate to study the associated effects. This is particularly the case for malt liquor, as the grant reports that it has received little research attention. Understanding early alcohol abuse patterns, as well as the deaths and injuries that result from drug abuse among young men, are clear public health benefits. Moreover, as with any major medical study, it’s inevitable that jobs will be created to support the work.
Something similar goes for another NIH-funded study on sexual behaviors of young women in college, determining whether they are more likely to “hook up” after drinking—once again, public health research that is greeted by McCain and Coburn only with a sneer. And on it goes: They dismiss a public health study on why young males don’t like wearing condoms, along with research on the “Icelandic Arctic Environment in the Viking Age,” the “Learning Patterns of Honeybees,” and so on.
Basically, the McCain Coburn approach is to point and laugh at various scientific studies, without showing either that they are bad science or that they won’t produce jobs. It’s a rather pathetic exercise….about which you can read more here.