Editor's Note: Desperately Seeking Science

March 5, 2014

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What do advanced polymer composites and mantis shrimp appendages have in common? They’re both looking for research money, as President Barack Obama ceremoniously hands his fiscal 2015 budget request to Congress.

The president’s budget plan will be examined and dissected in the days to come, as a matter of course. He is seeking an extra $56 billion not in the two-year budget pact negotiated by congressional brokers last December, and part of that money is for his national manufacturing hubs (see Industry Crib Sheet). It is expected that lawmakers will give the proposal short shrift.

Still, the National Science Foundation will find out how much money the president thinks it deserves from the discretionary spending pie ultimately appropriated by Congress. The NSF is the key federal grant-making agency for basic science research, on which a seemingly non-essential project on shrimp anatomy depends for funding (see The Light Side article).

The dichotomy between applied manufacturing R&D and organismal biology research is closer than thought. That’s because while one may appear more urgent and practical than the other, both produce societal benefits -- and in ways not necessarily planned. And to deny financial support to both is to deny the American capacity for discovery and technological progress. William Ng, Editor-in-Chief, wng@thomasnet.com.

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