Holy crap, it’s gotten this bad?


The brain drain is beginning. Nearly 20% of American scientists would like to get out of this country.

New data compiled by a coalition of top scientific and medical research groups show that a large majority of scientists are receiving less federal help than they were three years ago, despite spending far more time writing grants in search of it. Nearly one-fifth of scientists are considering going overseas to continue their research because of the poor funding climate in America.

Why, you might ask? Because funding for research is drying up everywhere.

changeinfunding

That could be fixed, you know. Divert that cash that’s being deployed to prepare to bomb Syria and other foreign countries, and we could probably rebuild our scientific and technological infrastructure before it’s too late.

Although, with all the idiots emerging from public education believing in nonsense while the media cheer them on, it might already be too late.

Comments

  1. raven says

    The brain drain is beginning. Nearly 20% of American scientists would like to get out of this country.

    I can see why.

    But good luck with that. In most of the rest of the world, funding isn’t any better.

    About the only places increasing funding are Singapore and China. And there are already a few American scientists working there. They could get as many as they wanted with no problem whatsoever.

  2. says

    So the take-home lesson for high-schoolers considering a research career is: take a foreign language. And not necessarily one of the usual European tongues.

  3. Anthony K says

    How does one build a bomb using only the instructions written in the Bible?

    I mean, I don’t know, but the US is gonna have to find out soon if it wants to remain the kid who runs around killing everyone with impunity.

  4. infraredeyes says

    I’m in the scientific instruments business. Three of the top four in that chart–China, S. Korea, and India–are our best bet for selling high-end research systems at the moment. The US market has been in a slump since…well, since 9/11 really and the government sequestration has only made things worse.

  5. raven says

    The brain drain is beginning. Nearly 20% of American scientists would like to get out of this country.

    So would a lot of other people. And 1000’s at least, maybe more, have already left.

    Four of my friends have emigrated. The last two, a couple, left a few months ago. They were retiring, dual citizens and had had enough. The last straw was health care costs so they went back to Europe.

    I thought of it myself. I don’t have to live in the USA. But the whole plan foundered on where to go. As bad as the USA is getting, there aren’t too many better places and a huge number of worse ones. That and the cats. They would not be easy to move. Even changing brands of cat food is a major change for them.

    Canada might work but it is way colder than I like.

  6. carlie says

    As bad as the news is, I can’t help but be very impressed by the graphic. Great way to convey the problem in a very simple way.

  7. gsciacca says

    After 33 years of Republican Party domination (following the economics advice from Ayn Rand) this is what you get.

  8. René says

    Nearly 20% of American scientists would like to get out of this country.

    Translation: More than eighty percent of American scientists don’t follow the news.

    I always said, après moi le déluge, but now I am less and less sure. And I am living 60 cms (two feet) below sea level.

  9. Amphiox says

    I have this sneaky suspicion that it is going to take a “Sputnik moment”, ie a direct, visual, unmissable demonstration by the Chinese and/or others that they have truly and significantly surpassed the United States in some publicly recognizable area of science and technology, before this trend will be reversed.

    And there will be much wailing gnashing of teeth in America, about how, oh how, could we have let them catch up and pull ahead of us like that….

  10. ceesays says

    well that’s fantastic, innovative thinking, isn’t it?

    And Amphiox, I hope that moment happens really soon, and I hope it’s *staggering.* because yay cool science, but also because I agree that it’s only going to reverse if a Sputnik moment happens.

  11. Bob Dowling says

    I agree that it’s a problem but can I sound a note of caution regarding the graphic? It says “since 2011″. Why pick that year? This is an easy statistic to fiddle.

    Better would be the graph of spend per year (either absolute, inflation adjusted, %age of GDP, or relative to the first year) over several years and to compare the curves for each of the countries shown. The further back the data can go, the better.

    Of course, this can just make you even more depressed if you see that it is like that every year for the past decade, but it’s a better justified depression.

  12. says

    @10,11: Even then, only if that “Sputnik moment” is in some way relevant to defense. The original Sputnik occurred in the era of ballistic missiles, where space was the new military frontier — what if the Soviets could put up orbital bombs, or anti-missile platforms, ready to both attack the US and shoot down the response? For this era, the new Sputnik would be probably be something in biotech — say, something to do with stem cells, but with obvious bio-warfare or ecotage possibilities.

  13. says

    I have this sneaky suspicion that it is going to take a “Sputnik moment”, ie a direct, visual, unmissable demonstration by the Chinese and/or others that they have truly and significantly surpassed the United States in some publicly recognizable area of science and technology, before this trend will be reversed.

    Sadly with the way US politics are now, I think a “Sputnik moment” might come, there will be some noise, but sadly only sound and fury, signifying nothing. One party cannot compromise at all and I fear it might result in nothing happening.

  14. gillt says

    Job prospects for scientists are very difficult, increasingly so. No doubt. But it’s either just as bad or worse in the UK, Germany, Italy, Spain, France. In Chile, Mexico, BC Canada. Those are countries where I’ve heard testimonials from biologists working there, all of which have also worked in the US. So that’s what has informed my opinion. I have no idea about China and Korea.

    I would think that real dollar amount and not percent GDP would be a better indicator of science funding since the US’s GDP is larger than most. Also, unless we have data on scientists opinions from 10, 20,30 years ago we have no idea whether scientists are generally cynical and cranky or that our current climate is making them so. For instance, any amount of grant writing makes me stressed and cynical.

  15. frog says

    A “Sputnik moment” would be great, but unfortunately, one entire political party and most of another have already demonstrated their ability to flat-out ignore facts waved in their faces.

    The Chinese could develop teleportation technology and beam into Republican bedrooms, and the response would be to call in the Ghostbusters to deal with these Chinese apparitions.

  16. dianne says

    Nearly 20% of American scientists would like to get out of this country.

    That few? I can’t imagine why anyone would want to stay in the US if they didn’t have a preexisting commitment to people here or a feeling of helplessness about the prospect of finding work elsewhere. I stay due to both, but am trying to make sure my kid knows other languages and academic systems so she’ll be less trapped.

  17. A. R says

    Unfortunately, my field is not one conducive to leaving the US, as there really aren’t any other countries that support my work at the level I require. Someone would have to offer to build a 500 million dollar facility with an 8 million annual budget to get me to leave my current position.

  18. unclefrogy says

    I’m not sure we would even recognize a Sputnik moment when and if it happens. We may have already had some already. We have had major events that we do not recognize.
    We are sacrificing our future on the alter of ideological purity and are walking away from the traditional Yankee pragmatism that helped define what the United States was all about..

    uncle frogy

  19. Hairy Chris, blah blah blah etc says

    China landing an explorer bot on the Moon may be a minor kick, but I don’t know whether it’ll be enough.

    I have a horrible feeling that it’ll be a Vietnam moment but more terminal.

  20. says

    For those thinking that Canada’s too cold, I should point out that Toronto’s climate is generally slightly better than Buffalo’s, and this is reasonably true of the whole SW Ontario area (which is why about 7 of the 10 million Ontarians live here). And it’s changing fast. The winters have shifted to a generally-warmer, but occasionally HUGE SNOWDUMP happens, pattern. We’re likely considerably warmer than Minneapolis.

    But for truly not-cold, you’ll want Vancouver and/or Victoria. Confusingly, the latter is on Vancouver Island, and the former isn’t, but they both have climate similar to that of Portland OR and Seattle. Wetter than the usual eastern summer, and much, much, warmer winters. Vancouver has two excellent universities, one of which you’ve probably seen in some show or other (the X-Files shot at SFU – on top of a small mountain – all the time, the 4400 did, Supernatural has, a whole bunch of others), UBC and Simon Fraser University. The city’s cosmopolitan and has plenty to do, although it is becoming fairly expensive to live in certain areas (including part of the near-UBC sections).

    I’ve been there a few times (it’s 2500 miles from here, give or take, maybe less), and the city is really a nice place to live. It’s too damp for my bad bones, but it is certainly worth a consideration if you’re looking for a place that is near to the US, speaks English, and has a reasonable climate.

    And yes, I’m serious. Most scientists would have little trouble immigrating here, because of the points system and its emphasis on formal education. We have the same problem with postdocs getting chances on tenure tracks, but any established scientist should be able to find a place. Our research funding isn’t great, but it’s possibly better than the US'; we had our deficit crisis in the early 90s, and have been running at or near surplus since. Taxation is somewhat higher, but not ridiculously so, and of course we have health care for everyone.

    It’s not a completely silly idea, in any case. If our immigration people were able to prevail upon the Harpertron-5000 (Conservative – Uncanny Valley) that sits in the PMO, and point out that 1 in 5 US scientists want out, and they made an appropriate change to the immigration rules, we could easily start assembling a nice new crop of US expats, like we did when you started drafting people during the Vietnam War. This would be good, as our last crop are starting to run out. ;)

  21. A. R says

    I think I would go to Sweden or Finland if I left. If language were an issue, I suspect it would have to be Canada, France, NZ, Australia, or the UK.

  22. Anthony K says

    I’ve been there a few times (it’s 2500 miles from here, give or take, maybe less), and the city is really a nice place to live. It’s too damp for my bad bones, but it is certainly worth a consideration if you’re looking for a place that is near to the US, speaks English some kind of weird surfer dialect, and has a reasonable climate.

    Plus, the whole city shuts down when it snows, there’s a chance of snow, or somebody mentions having seen or heard of snow.

  23. chigau (違う) says

    Anthony K
    I hear that sometimes the sun shines in Vancouver.
    Not any time that I’ve been there but that’s what they tell me.

  24. anchor says

    How much great science and technology R&D could have been accomplished for the money expended on a certain facility located in Utah…and I daresay with far greater national security as an outcome.

  25. jedibear says

    We don’t need to find the funding by cutting somewhere else. We’re in a moment where we really need to borrow and spend, and research is a very solid bang-for-buck in economic terms.

    Stimulus spending is at least as politically practicable as military cuts.

  26. Dr Marcus Hill Ph.D. (arguing from his own authority) says

    I’m with Bob Dowling @12 on this one. The time period is potentailly cherry picked, as is the figure used. There’s a big difference in impact depending on the absolute figures: has China gone from 1 to 1.1% and the US from 50 to 49.95%? If all you had was this graph to go on, that’s a possibility. As a mathematician, my natural instinct when I see any graph or set of statistics is to think “what’s the biggest lie you could tell with this whilst keeping it entirely accurate”?

  27. garnetstar says

    Cut out corporate welfare and tax loopholes, raise income and estate taxes slightly on the 1%, tax churches, stimulate economic growth so more of the 99% have enough income to tax.

    Voila, plenty of money to go around, for everyone. See how simple?

  28. wpjoe says

    The sequester is really hurting. It meant a 10% cut in funds to already funded NIH projects. I am going to have to fire someone in my lab next year because I am losing 33K next year from the sequester. This comes after year after year of stagnant budgets at NIH and cuts in state funding. You have to conclude that the US doesn’t care about having science as a viable career option. I told a naive young student a few months ago to consider medicine instead of research. Doing that makes me so sad.

  29. David Marjanović says

    That few? I can’t imagine why anyone would want to stay in the US if they didn’t have a preexisting commitment to people here or a feeling of helplessness about the prospect of finding work elsewhere.

    Exactly: they’re feeling helpless about the prospect of finding work anywhere, and rightly so. :-(

    It’s not as if most European politicians had understood that they could trigger a brain gain by just a few adjustments to the silly immigration laws of their countries!