The Republicans in congress have just approved a rude little bill.
The House of Representatives approved legislation Wednesday that would require the National Science Foundation to provide written justification for how every grant furthers the “national interest.”
The legislation, H.R. 3293, passed largely along party lines in the Republican-controlled House. Its sponsors characterized the measure as designed to “ensure that the National Science Foundation (NSF) is open and accountable to the taxpayers about how their hard-earned dollars are spent.”
Meanwhile, those impractical enthusiastic physicists have been all jubilant over the discovery of gravitational waves, and it’s in the media everywhere I turn. Guess how much confirmation of this phenomenon cost?
The chirp is also sweet vindication for the National Science Foundation, which spent about $1.1 billion over more than 40 years to build a new hotline to nature, facing down criticism that sources of gravitational waves were not plentiful or loud enough to justify the cost.
All right, smart guys. I’m a reasonably intelligent, reasonably well-educated biologist, and I’ve been struggling to grasp the significance of this discovery. I want you to imagine standing in front of Lamar Smith or Dana Rohrabacher and having to explain to them how a squiggle in a billion-dollar instrument furthers the national interest. These are people quite happy to throw a trillion dollars away on the F-35, but want to know exactly how every penny going to basic science will Make America Great Again.
Have fun with that.