I am very involved in Public Outreach and Science Policy, making the public and in particular the policy-makers fully aware of the critical role science plays in their lives. Why? Because the national policymakers of an increasing number of countries, along with European leaders, have completely lost touch with the reality of research.
They have chosen to ignore the crucial contribution of a strong research sector to the economy, particularly needed in the countries more severely hit by the economic crisis. They have chosen to ignore that research does not follow political cycles; that long-term, sustainable R&D investment is critical because science is a long-distance race; that some of its fruits might be harvested now, but others may take generations to mature; that if we do not seed today, our children will not have the tools to face the challenges of tomorrow. They have chosen to ignore that public investment in R&D is an attractor of private investment; that in an “innovation State” like the United States over half of its economic growth has come from innovation with roots in basic research funded by the federal government. They have chosen to ignore that time and resources are required to train researchers. They have chosen to ignore that applied research is no more than the application of basic research and is not limited to research with short-term market impact. They have chosen to ignore how the scientific process works; that research requires experimentation and that not all experiments will be successful; that excellence is the tip of an iceberg that floats only because of the body of work beneath. They have chosen to ignore the critical synergy between research and education. And foremost, they have chosen to ignore that research does not only need to serve the economy but also increases knowledge and social welfare, including of those with no resources to pay the bill.
I am determined to remind them because their ignorance can cost us the future. My daughters' future. If you feel the same way, consider signing the petition They Have Chosen Ignorance (read its full tex here and its press coverage here).
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect the views of my employer the STScI.