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Why science needs more than the private sector

I’m a conservative. So, naturally, I’m usually very apprehensive about big government programs. I usually promote private sector solutions with profit motive instead of bloated, clunky, inefficient government ones.

Science, I have learned recently, is a different story. 

After reading a very extensive report on science and science journalism, I have come to know how necessary government funding for science is.

 But, first, some background.

For the last few decades, science has increasingly found itself funded by the private sector. Before, in the Cold War, science was mostly funded by the government–and founded generously. However, with the fall of the Soviet Union, Western governments have less reason to spend oodles of money, and are under greater pressure to save money. Consequently, many government science programs have found themselves axed. Meanwhile, the private sector, is quickly taking the government’s place in science funding. Now a vast majority of science funding comes from the private sector. But there’s a problem.

Because it’s driven by profit, private enterprise mostly focuses on applied science as opposed tobasic science(for those who do not know, basic science is science that seeks knowledge for its own sake and seeks to answer general questions, while applied science focuses on the solution to a very fine, specific problem or goal. For example, a question of basic science might be ‘what is the Earth composed of?’ while an applied science question might be ‘how does the composition of the Earth on a certain construction site hinder or help us from building a structure?’).

Now, here comes the important part: applied science is fueled by basic science.

Do you see the problem? The private sector is centered around applied science, whereas it needs basic science to continue its progress. So who’s going to fund basic science? It seems like the private sector won’t, because there’s no immediate source of revenue in basic science.  

I now think it’s the government’s place to fund basic science. Like in its construction of infrastructure, the government’s role is to support the basic necessities of private sector (if the private sector cannot provide them itself.)

So, what does the Internet think? Should the government fuel basic science? Or do you think that private enterprise will come to fund basic science anyway?

By the way, the link to the report i read is here: http://www.freedomforum.org/publications/first/worldsapart/worldsapart.pdf

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. March 26, 2012 at 3:29 am

    The inherent nature of the private sector is to furiously work towards doing the least work for the greatest profit, so they would initially focus entirely on pouring their funding into application of science to achieve some sort of profitable end result. However most intelligent private sector organizations will realize the value of investing time and energy into basic science, so as to reap a greater harvest of benefits when expertise and application of said science becomes useful and popularized. I think government funding of science still plays an important role in advancing human knowledge, although many times it is funded more for political agenda than anything. I think a keen government interest in the scientific industry will encourage more individuals to enter fields of science, meaning there will be more doctors and astrophysicists available to study the available information. So in answer to your question, I do believe that the private sector alone could FUND scientific advancement at a basic level, but without government support through monetary funding, fewer people will be available to actually carry out the research.

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