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The negative effects of GOP malice and MBA stupidity on Research shows no sign of slowing down

The commenters at In the Pipeline are beginning to think that nothing short of a bacterial apocalypse is going to get the public’s attention. I don’t even want to think of how that could come about.

Derek continues to document the atrocities. Amgen acquired Onyx and laid off 300 of their researchers this week. Add that to the antibiotic researchers who got laid off last week, the 100 or so Sanofi oncology investigators who got laid off last month and the Shire investigators who got the ax last week as well.

By the way, we are now referring to ourselves as investigators, not researchers. Add it to your glossary.

And now, the NSF is complaining that the Republican Congress is sticking its mitt into research, playing politics and generally making an already miserable situation even worse. I got this article in my email blast from Nature yesterday:

The US National Science Foundation (NSF) has had a tough couple of years. Republicans in the US Congress have put the agency under the microscope, questioning its decisions on individual grants and the purpose of entire fields of study. The agency was without a permanent director for a year, and it is now planning an expensive, and controversial, move to new headquarters.

As she prepares to mark one year at the agency’s helm, astrophysicist France Córdova is carefully navigating these challenges. “I used to be a mountaineer,” she says. “It’s all about looking at every move and how you can best do it so that you don’t take a fall.” But many researchers worry that Congress has begun to interfere with the scientific process. As mistrust grows, the NSF is caught between the scientists it serves and the lawmakers it answers to.

Córdova has moved aggressively to repair relations with Congress. Aides to lawmakers who participated in a December trip to NSF facilities in Antarctica say that the journey was successful. And to address concerns about transparency, the agency has instituted guidelines that should make its grant summaries easier to understand.

But such efforts seem to have had little influence on an investigation of the NSF’s funding decisions by Representative Lamar Smith (Republican, Texas), chairman of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology. Since he took the job two years ago, Smith has sought to root out what he sees as wasteful spending by the US$7-billion NSF. He has introduced legislation that would require the agency to certify that every grant it awards is in the “national interest”, and he has repeatedly sought, and been given, confidential information about individual NSF grants — albeit in redacted form. On at least four occasions, staff from the science committee travelled to the NSF’s headquarters in Arlington, Virginia, to review such documents, most recently on 28 January.

“There is a sense of exhaustion among researchers as this has continued,” says Meghan McCabe, a legislative-affairs analyst at the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology in Bethesda, Maryland. An NSF programme director who asked not to be named is more direct: “Having them in our building questioning our work like that felt like an attack.”

Some of these politicians make a big deal out of the fact that they don’t believe in evolution or the effect that human activity can have on climate. I am assuming that some are lying to get elected. But I’m hearing from former investigators that they have stopped doing research on dementia because only traumatic brain injury was being funded. Department of Defense grants seem to be in somewhat better supply in se fields of study.

Anyway, just read it. It’s just one more straw breaking the camel’s back. Between the constant layoffs, restructuring, relocations, impoverished startups, vulture capitalists, stingy academic salaries and hard to get grants, and more Congressional oversight from a bunch of anti-science wing nuts, investigators can’t catch a break. We’re on our last nerve.

We’re exhausted in every sense of the word.

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