Saturday, January 28, 2006

Funding university education and research

Inside Higher Ed has a series of three   articles on how the US is reacting to the perceived loss of its edge in science and technology. The reaction is to the large numbers of science and engineering graduates coming out of Indian and Chinese universities. I am not sure if these graduates will like being equated to the Sputnik, though!

Some bills are winding their way through the US Congress; when they are passed, they will create a mechanism to provide enhanced grants to students opting to study science, engineering, and for those who opt for teaching certification programs.

These moves come in the wake of several reports by various high level committees and task forces:

I really have to wonder why the tone of these reports sound like war cries. Is that the best way to grab attention?


All that was about science and engineering. How about the funding -- in the US -- of university education in general? In a scathing article, Wick Sloane, a former CFO at a public university, asks: "why aren’t we discussing the fact that scrambled state and federal priorities are shutting down public higher education and strangling access? And preventing creation of a decent work force?".


Back to science; this time, it is research funding. In a post titled Libertopia approaches?, Chad Orzel argues:

Modern science, particularly physics, has advanced to the point where progress can no longer be made on the Victorian model of the landed gentry tinkering around in their spare time in their home laboratories. ...

Science is an expensive business these days, and there's just no way you're going to be able to fund it all out of private donations. Relying on philanthropy is not a sound basis for a national science policy.

Finally, via Marginal Revolution, we have links to two academic papers. The first one finds empirical evidence suggesting that "private funders are more successful than the government at identifying important research." The second report, which used a model for academic and private-sector research, suggests, not surprisingly, early and late stage research are better done in academia and private labs.