December 1, 2005

Science flees the country

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at December 1, 2005 10:36 PM

The right-wing anti-science movement is succeeding in driving researchers to more rational nations:

Fallout from the corruption of secular science by the Bush administration and its religious allies continues to pile up. The latest is a particularly harmful blow: Two of the world's best geneticists will leave the National Cancer Institute and move not to Stanford University, which had heavily recruited them, but to Singapore's Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology. The reason is simple: They will face far fewer restrictions on their research, which involves stem cells.

(Via Pharyngula.)

At a certain level it doesn't matter whether stem cell research is being done in the US or Singapore—science is a human endeavor, not a nationalistic one. But if there are scientists who feel they need to leave the country in order to work in this field, there are others who are choosing to work on other problems because there are so many barriers to stem cell biology. Not to mention that of the research institutions with the world-class infrastructure needed to do cutting-edge research, many are in the US and this infrastructure will be underutilized as a result. Bush's policies are slowing down the progress of the entire field, not just US science.

On the other hand, this will have a deleterious effect on the US economy as biotech and medical companies relocate. One might think Bush's big-business allies would be uneasy about this, but one only need look at the US current account deficit to see that Bush's big-business allies aren't exactly taking the long view.

Tags: Bush Administration, Politics, Science

This is hopefully the type of issue that could wedge the 2 main faction of the republican machine. Mainly the religion social conservatives and the financial big busness fiscal conservatives.

Posted by: shellock | December 2, 2005 7:28 AM

Yup, that wedge idea is one of the things Mooney brings up near the end of his "Republican War on Science" talks... Hasn't happened quite yet though. As for business not taking the long view, I'd say the oil companies not knowing what to do with their multi-Gigabuck quarterly profits is a better indicator than the US deficit. If the US tanks, multinationals can just concentrate on China and Europe for a bit, but oil companies really need to work on their post peak oil business plans (last night's public lecture by Deffeyes talked about this, and he claims peak oil happened last week, +/- 3 weeks).

And how many non-stem cell scientists are leaving the country? For me personally, the optimal outcome of my job search last year would have landed me in Victoria, BC rather than Pasadena (though this is a most excellent position, too). It's the really incredible top-notch people who get to pick and choose where they go, too... I wonder if politics played a part in the editor of the Astrophysical Journal moving from Arizona to Cambridge. Despite what you might think, for an observational astronomer that's probably a step downwards. :-)

Posted by: Justin | December 2, 2005 12:48 PM

There's also all the grad students, postdocs, and faculty members we're losing out on because of our immigration policies. There are postdocs who GT tried to hire that we couldn't get into the country. There are faculty there who can't go home to visit their families because they're afraid they won't be allowed back in. There are also tons of people who now aren't trying to come to the US in the first place because of all the extra hurdles now in place, and I can't blame them. I've talked to colleagues from other universities and read various stuff about this in venues such as APS News, and this seems to be pretty widespread. When it comes to science, we're screwing ourselves from practically all angles.

Posted by: Mason | December 2, 2005 7:37 PM
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