Nebraska Republican and House science committee member Adrian Smith wants to put the public in charge of deciding which scientific grants should be funded with government money. NSF is funding some "questionable" projects, Smith says in a video appeal for his new "YouCut" program, and it's up to everyday citizens to decide which grants are "wasteful." Here's the problem, says The Intersection's Chris Mooney: scientific grants are peer reviewed by people who understand the reasons, context, and bigger picture behind each study. For example, one grant Smith singled out for attention was "$750,000 to develop computer models to analyze the on-field contributions of soccer players." But, Mooney says, when LiveScience did some digging, they found that the researchers plan to apply the computer model they develop to wider, more complex systems like the stock market and ecosystems.
DrugMonkey can give Smith two reasons why this is a bad idea. For one thing, he says, basic science is extremely important to the development of new drugs, medical devices, clinical applications, and so on, even when "the application of much of the present basic science work cannot be confidently asserted at the time it is being conducted." It would be a mistake to allow people who don't understand the correlation between basic science and medical breakthroughs to make decisions on which projects should be funded. DrugMonkey's second objection is that investing in science is investing in the future, and "I don't really see where little 'd' democracy at a tactical level helps out with deciding what to invest in for the future."
The Intersection's Sheril Kirshenbaum says, "You can't be serious." Why don't we just put everyday citizens in the operating room with surgeons, advising the doctors on which cuts to make, she adds, calling YouCut "ridiculous." Commenting on Kirshenbaum's post, The Gregarious Misanthrope adds, "Next maybe we can get all those Xbox warriors to review our military operations in Afghanistan to suggest a better course of action.Yeah, that’s not going to work either."