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SCIENCE-FOR-THE-PEOPLE  January 2009

SCIENCE-FOR-THE-PEOPLE January 2009

Subject:

Things to think about and then propose to do

From:

Maurice Bazin <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Science for the People Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Wed, 7 Jan 2009 07:36:47 -0200

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (199 lines)

From: Maurice Bazin <[log in to unmask]>
Date: 7 de janeiro de 2009 10h31min51s CET
To: Science for the People Discussion List
<[log in to unmask]>
Subject: Things to think about and then propose to do

I am one of the retired professors who do not retire from looking at what is
possible to do as Science for the People.   So I do not get off the List
because of 'pig-pong' exchanges...

Herb and Larry started a very interesting and focused exchange.  
I find it fascinating although I do not feel the pinch that Larry feels.  

My recent contribution in the direction "for the people" has been to write
proposals: in Brazil,
1)  for the State of Rio's Science Foundation to do experimental (hands-on in
the classroom)  physics teaching at the secondary level at the National
Institute for the Deaf.   The grant type was part of a 'new', that is
fashionable area of research (everything has to be presented as academic
research) within the problematics of "inclusion", that is studying the
difficulties of individuals with 'special needs'.  I got the money but had to
return it when the entrenched teaching staff and the reactionary administration
and historically retrograde pedagogical orientation of the place would only
allow me to enter the place one hour per week to accompany one active colleague
and friend with whom the whole project was invented in the first place.  
So I invented another way:
2) The Ministry of Culture  (the one recently headed by the singer Gilberto Gil)
offers grants to create   "Centers of Culture", that is give out $30K per year
for 3 years for doing cultural activities based at an existing ONG.    We
proposed opening the "Space for Living Science", the museum I helped created 20
years ago in Rio, one night per week for night students and teachers from State
schools.  Also collaborate with theatre groups at the Museum to enlarge our
"culture" side...   It has always been true anyway as we originally opened with
astronomy activities in public squares with a street theatre group doing part of
Galileo-Galilei....  
Add special activities for deaf leaderships who also do theatre and you'll
understand why I am learning Sign Language  (LIBRAS, in Brazil)....
Our Museum never got money from "cultural" funders.   We'll know in February
this time.

That is just to show that maybe, somehow, one can avoid whoring with the
military.

Love to all,

Maurice
  
Maurice Bazin
Rua Paissandu 199,  Apto 301
Flamengo
22210-080 Rio de Janeiro
Brasil

Tel   (55 21) 2557 0929
Cel   (55 21) 9465 0167

On 04/01/2009, at 21:14, Larry Romsted wrote:

Herb:

From your paragraphs below: "Why should physicists and electronic engineers
have to do this kind of science against humanity?  Cannot scientific whores
find more benign Johns to fund their pleasures in research and invention?"

and

"I suggest that we construct a list of science for people projects or
research topics deserving of funding."

Three things.  (a) Personally, I am becoming one of those science whores
because I am running out of Johns and I now desperate about funding my
research and may submit a proposal to the Army for the first time in my
life,  (b) The people at those meetings are in a way, self-selecting, and I
suspect most of them think getting funding from the military is a service to
the country--improving the nations self-defense capabilities in the face of
international terrorists.  But, they just might also be cynical in that they
will take the money to do what they think is their own research, ignoring
that what they do is tailored their research to the funding source.  And, do
not forget the power of nationalism, especially if you have heard about it a
personal responsibility to defend the country (and God) all your life. (c)
One suggestion for a science for the people topic/project.

First, my case.

I have been doing academic research as a professor type for about 28.5
years.  Before that, a number of years as a grad student and post doc.
Total, 38 years there about.  Long time.  During this time I have had grants
from NSF mostly, but also NIH, PRF, and the Center for Advanced Food
Technology at my University, Rutgers (antioxidant in emulsions research,
e.g., mayonnaise or salad dressing).  I have colleagues that have been
taking money from the Army for all that time, but I have resisted.  For the
first time, I am facing a really serious funding crisis.  Over the past
years, while sustaining my NSF grant I have tried to get funding from the US
Dept Agriculture (4 times, all rejected), PRF (4 times all rejected), and
recently 2 NSF renewals, both rejected.  I current have two proposals
submitted, one to NSF and the other PRF.  I will hear about the PRF proposal
in February.  I will maybe hear about the NSF in March/April.  I should have
heard in Nov/Dec of 2008, but Congress passed a continuing resolution
instead of a new budget for the sciences because they thought that Bush
would veto their increased science budget, so decisions all new grants and
renewal grants are on hold until the Obama administration comes into office.
In the meantime, the postdoc working with me had to leave because I could no
longer afford to pay him (that project is dead), and I have only limited
funds for supplies.

So, what to do?  I have a colleague in France and she and I are exploring
funding from the Army.  It will take time.  Should I not do it?

The problem is not mine alone.  At the US Dept Agriculture, funding
probabilities are about 1:10 to 1:8.  At NIH, the same.  At NSF, a bit
higher, 1:5.  That means most science researchers do not get their grants
funded.  So they submit again, and again, and again.

Second, my academic colleagues.

My personal perspective.  Success in academic science at the base level
(keeping your research going) is called get funding.  Matters for promotion
and tenure, actually doing the research, and national international
recognition for your work.  The idea is not "serve the people", the idea is
meet the requirements of the funding source.  The system has been in place
since WWII was over, but the stress on the system has increased
significantly because the amount of funds available have not kept pace with
the growth in the number of scientists.  One hot field at the moment is
"Nano".  If you are trained in doing "Nano", that is what you have the
highest probability in getting funding for, so you go where the funding
announcements say "Nano".

Third, a sketch of a project.  A big one.  Protecting the environment for
the people (and the quality of their lives) means that cars must be made
obsolete ASAP (decades probably).  A people centered publicly financed mass
transit system is needed, here and everywhere on the globe.  This requires a
new way of thinking about the organization of society (which is maybe why
short range thinking politicians seldom talk about it) and the initiation of
a long term public investment and planning (market forces will never get
there, duh).  Funding for such large scale/long term projects should come
from cuts in current military budgets and new public mass transit companies
and public investment in research should explore all kinds of alternatives
for transit.  Some of this happens now, but much is focused on making a
better car.  Might even require redoing the transit system in some section
of the country as an experiment just to test the ideas.

If this is a good idea, then it should be grounded in good
political/economic class analysis, which is beyond my current skills.

My thoughts,

Larry





On 1/4/09 12:59 AM, "herb fox" <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

The excerpt below is from an article in The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists
http://thebulletin.org/web-edition/features/the-proliferation-of-space-warfare
-technology

   The November 2007 National Nano Engineering conference in Boston on
   advanced nanotechnology applications for commercial and military
   space systems included dozens of speakers and presentations on
   cutting-edge space applications. Hundreds of people attended, with
   nearly every seat in the hotel's grand ballroom filled for the first
   session. The list of invited speakers included researchers from the
   Naval Research Laboratory; the National Institute of Standards and
   Technology; NASA Goddard Space Flight Center; the national
   laboratories; international universities; and private space systems
   developers. Each explained in detail the recent advancements made in
   their respective fields.

   Countless opportunities unfolded in all directions--sources for
   funding, publicity, potential collaborators--and everyone raced
   around to seize the moment. At the National Reconnaissance Office
   table there were free pencils and coasters, while nearby, university
   researchers mingled with officials from the defense industry and
   foreign nationals on how to best harden satellites against
   electromagnetic interference using the latest progress in nanomaterials.

The excerpt is a graphic image of the wholesale wedding of physicists in
and out of academia to the military establishment. The article is
however not critical of this.  Rather it presents the position that it's
inevitable that space warfare technology will proliferate spurring a
second arms race of sorts. Its call is that the international community
and U.S. policy makers need to begin discussing the ramifications of
pursuing military space immediately.

I believe the problem is more fundamental: Why should physicists and
electronic engineers have to do this kind of science against humanity?
Cannot scientific whores find more benign Johns to fund their pleasures
in research and invention?  Certainly we should be bombarding the Obama
website with requests that science for people be funded as opposed to
science for warfare.  To do this coherently i suggest that we construct
a list of science for people projects or research topics deserving of
funding.  We can do this on this list.  In the meantime can someone
provide references to data on to what extent the scientific community is
funded by the military?

herb

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