2009 won’t go down in history as a great year for science funding! Is 2010 going to be better?
I don’t use my crystal ball much … the last time I tried to publish a paper using predictions from the crystal ball, I got comments back from the reviewers like, “A crystal ball has no place in science, Morgan should be banned from doing science!” Well, I wasn’t banned but I learned my lesson – to only pull the ball out on really special occasions. I think the coming of the fabled year 2010 is one of those.
For your sake and mine, I need to find out what is going to happen in 2010! I polished and polished until my cloth was squeaking on the glass.
I sat down in a quiet place free of screaming kids, and several images flickered in front of my eyes…
First I saw….The National Institutes of Health will realize that after-the-fact cures for disease are too expensive. Why cure cancer when we could just prevent it by eating our fruits and vegetables? To save money, it will rename itself the National Institutes of Healthy Habits (NIHH). “All research grants will be cancelled, and the money will be be spent on big TV commercial campaign for healthy habits, airing during shows like American Idol and Saturday morning cartoons, shows popular amongst the younger crowd,” says Dr. Fritzhoff, head of PR for the NIHH. He estimates that the money saved will be in the billions. Skeptics claim that the message will be drowned out. “Just imagine a bureaucrat designed Eat Your Fruits and Vegggies commercial sandwiched in between commercials for Cheerios and Fruit loops. The NIHH commercials won’t stand a chance,” said Norm Clot, head of the group Taxpayers for No Taxes. “Let’s just get the government out of health altogether, private companies always do a better job – the statistics on obesity are just fabricated as part of the Big Government Lie.”
Then another vision….Scientists at Duke University implement a groundbreaking idea: the bake sale to end all bake sales. “We aren’t just selling ordinary cookies and muffins, these are the Duke SuperMuffin and SuperCookie!” said Dr. Baker of Duke. Duke biologists and biochemists collaborated to apply their best genetic and tissue engineering knowledge to produce the Duke SuperFoods. These foods solve many problems at once, by including a leptin that, once eaten, will permanently eliminate all snack cravings. Not only will this make the population healthier and raise money for Duke’s scientists, but it will also prevent their rival university at UNC Chapel Hill from following suit with a bake sale of their own, since nobody will ever want to buy another muffin or cookie. Consumer protection groups are concerned about this new Duke product, claiming that it may have other side effects. “From early tests of the foods, we have observed that subjects changed allegiance from the Carolina Tarheels basketball team to the Duke Blue Devils.” Don Scaredy of the Consumer Protection Group claims that the Duke researchers manipulated the data to hide the unwanted side effects. A representative of Duke responded, “We didn’t manipulate any data and there are no side effects. Our early clinical trials are simply showing the natural tendency of people to wake up and discover that Duke has a superior team.” Duke scientists are ecstatic at the new source of funding, it has been used to promote their research on genetically engineering taller basketball players.
Then another vision…One weather scientist named Dr. Float has a novel idea: to raise publicity for weather scientists, he plans to strap himself into a lawn chair tied to a set of weather balloons, and to go on an around-the-world fundraiser for science on his vessel. His voyage will start in Topeka, Kansas. “I’ve got a six pack of beer, and a big banner that will tail behind my lawnchair-in-the-sky, saying ‘Help the scientists. DonateForScience.com'” He claims that he will make it to at least Tulsa, OK before having to refuel an re-beer. “My only worry is avoiding the wrath of the aviation authorities. They don’t seem too keen on the idea. But they should support my efforts on the behalf of science.” Representatives of the NOAA were indignant about Dr. Float’s plan, “We don’t need gimmicks like this to raise funds for weather science. All our researchers are equipped with modern PC’s made within the last 15 years, and their models are so good that they predict the weather with 99.999% accuracy, except in the cases where the predictions are wrong.” Dr. Float is undeterred. “I’m going to raise the profile of weather scientists, even if it means a tango with a super jet liner.” Fortunately, Dr. Float is single and without kids.
The National Science Foundation will realize that the evolutionary biologists it supports are loosing the battle of words to the creationists, and decide to take a more head-on battle approach inspired by Sun-Tzu’s “Art of War”. The NSF will rename itself the National Sin Foundation to deflate the words “sin” and “sinner,” often equated with scientists. The campaign will be modeled after efforts of early gay rights groups that turned terms like “gay” from dirty words into common usage. “We want to let all the scientists out there know that it is ok to be labelled a “sinner” for doing science!” says Dr. Dobson, the new section chief for biological sciences at NSF. The rebranding effort will have a “broader impact” on the battle for evolution over creationism. And, the NSF will not need to change its letterhead, saving taxpayers thousands of dollars in printing costs.
The visions are fading from the crystal ball. 2010 looks like it will be a great year if you are a Duke biochemist or a weather scientist. For the rest of us, it is back to the grind of writing grant proposals. That is, unless you heed the final advice I saw on my crystal ball:
“Why don’t those scientists just get a real job in a factory and make something that people really want, like cars?” said Joe Sixpack to his wife, as he was on his way into Wal Mart, where he bought a Chinese-made toy car for his son’s birthday.