Why Did NSF Leave Out the Life Sciences?

In the NSF Strategic Plan, the life sciences (i.e., biology) are not included as an area that needs improvement in infrastructure or translation of research into new products. Is it too cynical to think that the Bush Administration purposely left out biology? After all, this is the same administration that has repeatedly altered or removed sections of scientific reports that offend various political constituencies. (Maybe I should let them know I wasn’t serious about the whole Imperial Stormtrooper thing…)
Well, the American Society for Microbiology got honked off and wrote a letter:

Dr. Arden Bement
National Science Foundation
4201 Wilson Boulevard
Arlington, Virginia 22230
Dear Dr. Bement:
The American Society for Microbiology (ASM), the largest single life science organization with more than 42,000 members, would like to comment on the National Science Foundation’s draft FY 2006-2011 Strategic Plan. ASM notes the omission of life sciences research in section III A, Long Term Investment Priorities: Further U.S. Economic Competitiveness (page 9).
The NSF plays a critical role in the discovery of new knowledge throughout the life sciences. NSF support for the life sciences has led to major discoveries in plant sciences, ecology, genetics, microbiology and molecular biology. These discoveries have had profoundly important, far-reaching and very broad impacts for our nation’s well being.
Our national competitiveness in areas such as nanotechnology and alternative energy sources depends on innovation in the life sciences. Innovation is promoted by multidisciplinary and cross-cutting research programs that bring together life sciences, physical sciences, engineering and mathematics. One of NSF’s primary strengths is its ability to sponsor such creative programs. It is essential that NSF continue to do so in order to maintain and expand the contributions of life sciences research for public well being.
We recommend that section III A, Long Term Investment Priorities: Further U.S. Economic Competitiveness (page 9) be modified to recognize and include the life sciences:

“NSF has major roles in the American Competitiveness Initiative in the areas of research, infrastructure, and education. We will promote innovations that improve the nation’s research capability, in the physical and life sciences, engineering, and mathematics, and spur the translation of research results into new applications and products.”

We appreciate the opportunity to provide comments on the NSF Strategic Plan.
Diane Griffin, Ph.D., President, ASM
Ruth L. Berkelman, M.D., Chair, Public and Scientific Affairs Board
Gary M. King, Ph.D., Chair, Committee on Environmental Microbiology

A fine letter. But we won’t be taken seriously until we bribe whore donate to political campaigns. “SCIPAC”, anyone?

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3 Responses to Why Did NSF Leave Out the Life Sciences?

  1. Chad Orzel says:

    To be fair, this is partly because the Clinton administration embarked on a committment to double the funding for life sciences research (through NIH and NSF), which saw a dramatic increase in those areas, while physical science funding was relatively flat. The “American Competitiveness Initiative” is focussed on physical science precisely because those areas have lagged somewhat in the last ten years.
    There may be darker political motives at work as well, but according to the NSF official who spoke at DAMOP, that’s the reason for the physical science focus.

  2. skunqesh says:

    so it’s a case of the squeaky wheel gettin greased – politics as usual.
    I prefer that to any conspiratorial minded assessment, although IMHO this administration has come across as aggressively ‘anti-life’ science (pun intended). It gets too easy to suspect the motives in this situation – thanks for shedding a little light on the big picture.

  3. sex shop says:

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