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There are pros and cons on either side of the discussion — government vs private funding of research. Often what wins is the path of least resistance. It’s certainly not clear that government funded research is any better than privately funded research.

Private funding can certainly be biased based on the personal curiosity of the benefactor. There are a slew of sources of private funding for astronomical research. ( Various privately owned health organizations target their foundation funding in an effort to make progress to tackle diabetes, cardiac disease, cancer, Alzheimers, climate change. Koch has a long history of funding research at AERA.

“Sugar-daddy science” (a horrible term, in my opinion) is, or at least can and should be, fundamentally different than “sugar-daddy journalism”. Anything can be published with the moniker of journalism. You can completely fabricate a narrative that has zero basis in fact, and still have it published as “news” (there is no federally regulated definition of “news”). In fact, there seems to be a preciipitous drop in ombudsmanship and even proofreading and spell checking in some of the largest journalism venues around the world these days.

True science, on the other hand, must be subject to review by peers, who are generally accepted as being experts in their field and verified to have their own body of fact-based research, if the research is to be considered verifiable and objective. Sure, there is an increasing number of open source venues that do not require any review from peers, but then that becomes journalism more than something that warrants being considered objective and fact-based. And in that regard, there is no difference between private and government funding.

It’s not clear how any investment in research would be considered “flashy” if the product of such research has no relevance to the general population. As I mentioned above, there is plenty of private research funding that results in real benefits for the general population.

It’s a bit presumptuous to claim that just because funding is provided by a governemnt, it’s necessarily good for the public. Politicians often have a hand in guiding funding according to their personal objectives, be it a sickness or death of a family member, a way to create an alliance with a foreign nation, or a myopic “bridge to nowhere” simply to placate a portion of their constituency in an attempt to get re-elected.

Maybe we should take science funding from wherever it comes. I’d take that over no funding at all. And it’s not at all clear that private funding is any worse than government funding.


Nolondil Wrote:
> The decline of government funding for science,
> other than military-related projects, has left a
> gap in modern science that will hinder progress if
> not corrected. One of the responses has been an
> increase in private "patrons" funding science.
> There are certain advantages to this. Many of the
> earliest scientists were funded by wealthy patrons
> if they were not independently wealthy themselves,
> and that allowed them to pursue research that no
> one else felt mattered. "Science" itself was
> considered an odd hobby, not a serious project
> with universal implications. But we tend to
> remember the successful early scientists, not the
> numerous attempts to make alchemy work or other
> strange projects. Now, with the return of the
> importance of private funding, will science be
> distorted by the desire to please the funders?
> []

> Historically, research has been funded by grants.
> Government agencies and foundations announce that
> they want to fund X, and you, the scientist, write
> a proposal about why you’ll be awesome at X. If
> they agree, they give you money to do X.
> That system has fallen apart. Thanks to funding
> cuts, getting government grants is like squeezing
> water from a stone. And many private foundations
> have, in turn, swaddled their grants in red tape.
> Many scientists spend more time writing grant
> applications than actually doing science. Private
> philanthropy—especially the kind that writes
> big, blank checks—is appealing.
> The problem is, blank checks never come without
> strings. Something’s always exchanged: access,
> status, image. That’s where sugar-daddy science
> comes in. (Hat tip to Heidi N. Moore, who inspired
> the term with her Twitter critiques of what she
> calls sugar-daddy journalism.) Research labs
> cultivate plutocrats and corporate givers who want
> to be associated with flashy projects. Science
> stops being a tool to achieve things people
> need—clean water, shelter, food, transit,
> communication—and becomes a fashion accessory.
> If the labs are sleek, the demos look cool, and
> they both reflect the image the donor wants, then
> mission accomplished. Nothing needs to actually
> work.
> ...

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Subject Views Written By Posted
The problem with sugar-daddy science 1330 Nolondil 27-Sep-19 17:32
Re: The problem with sugar-daddy science 206 Nth 29-Sep-19 16:40

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