End Government Funding of Science?

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Arariel
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End Government Funding of Science?

Postby Arariel » Wed Aug 07, 2013 3:21 am UTC

So the Cato Institute just published this article, 'The Case against Public Science', which gives several reasons why science should be left to the private sector. Among the highlights:
  • The increase in government funding of science since the beginning of the Cold War has had no effect on long-run economic growth:
    Spoiler:
    But it was the Cold War that sustained those governments’ commitment to funding science, and today those governments’ budgets for academic science dwarf those from the private sector; and the effect of this largesse on those nations’ long-term rates of economic growth has been … zero. The long-term rates of economic growth since 1830 for the UK or the United States show no deflections coinciding with the inauguration of significant government money for research (indeed, the rates show few if any deflections in the long-term: the long-term rate of economic growth in the lead industrialized nations has been steady at approximately 2 per cent per year for nearly two centuries now, with short-term booms and busts cancelling each other out in the long term.)
  • Private R&D stimulates economic growth, while public R&D might actually crowd out private R&D, having an adverse effect on private growth:
    Spoiler:
    The contemporary economic evidence, moreover, confirms that the government funding of R&D has no economic benefit. Thus in 2003 the OECD (Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development—the industrialized nations’ economic research agency) published its Sources of Economic Growth in OECD Countries, which reviewed all the major measurable factors that might explain the different rates of growth of the 21 leading world economies between 1971 and 1998. And it found that whereas privately funded R&D stimulated economic growth, publicly funded R&D had no impact.

    The authors of the report were disconcerted by their own findings. “The negative results for public R&D are surprising,” they wrote. They speculated that publicly funded R&D might crowd out privately funded R&D which, if true, suggests that publicly funded R&D might actually damage economic growth. Certainly both I and Walter Park of the American University had already reported that the OECD data showed that government funding for R&D does indeed crowd out private funding, to the detriment of economic growth. In Park’s words, “the direct effect of public research is weakly negative, as might be the case if public research spending has crowding-out effects which adversely affect private output growth.”
  • The nonexcludability excuse (people will 'steal' inventions) fails because copying is very expensive:
    Spoiler:
    costs of copying were on average 65 per cent of the costs of original invention. And the time taken to copy was, on average, 70 per cent of the time taken by the original invention.
  • Firms pay researchers to do basic research to establish their credibility in a field:
    Spoiler:
    In a 1990 paper with the telling title of “Why Do Firms Do Basic Research With Their Own Money?” Nathan Rosenberg of Stanford University showed that the down payment that a potential copier has to make before he or she can even begin to copy an innovation is their own prior contribution to the field: only when your own research is credible can you understand the field. And what do credible researchers do? They publish papers and patents that others can read, and they produce goods that others can strip down. These constitute their down payment to the world of copyable science.
  • Scientists in industry share knowledge in order to build on each others' research:
    Spoiler:
    Industrial scientists have long known that sharing knowledge is useful (why do you think competitor companies cluster?) though anti-trust law can force them to be discreet. So in 1985, reporting on a survey of 100 American companies, Edwin Mansfield found that “[i]nformation concerning the detailed nature and operation of a new product or process generally leaks out within a year.” Actually, it’s not so much leaked as traded: in a survey of eleven American steel companies, Eric von Hippel of MIT’s Sloan School of Management found that ten of them regularly swapped proprietary information with rivals. In an international survey of 102 firms, Thomas Allen (also of Sloan) found that no fewer than 23 per cent of their important innovations came from swapping information with rivals. Industrial science is in practice a collective process of shared knowledge.
Should the state get out of science?

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Re: End Government Funding of Science?

Postby bouer » Wed Aug 07, 2013 3:45 am UTC

That was an interesting and surprising article, but the conclusion that the government should stop funding science is flawed. Economic growth is not the only measure of a countries success. Consider countries A and B; in both countries the economy grows at the same rate, but in country A NMRIs and particle beams (developed by government research) are used to cure cancer, while in country B cancer sufferers are suggested to buy more Brand Name Cogarettes. I would argue country A is better off. Even if A's economy does slightly worse than B's I would still rather live in A. This is only one of many examples that could be made, no company would have funded research into the adverse affects of smoking, no company would have tried to find reasons not to use fossil fuels, and no company would spend billions of dollars to put a telescope in space that will never generate profit.
If anything, science is underfunded.

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Re: End Government Funding of Science?

Postby LaserGuy » Wed Aug 07, 2013 4:01 am UTC

I made it about halfway through the article before I couldn't stand the author's snark and gave up.

I'm sure that there are certain types of research that are probably better left to the private sector. Particularly developments that are easily patentable and can be brought to market quickly. The longer the time horizon of the work, the less palatable it is for private research: Good luck undertaking that extremely influential twenty year longitudinal study on e. coli evolution with a private company. The type of research that industry is actually interested in doing accounts for only a tiny fraction of all research being done.

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Re: End Government Funding of Science?

Postby KnightExemplar » Wed Aug 07, 2013 4:07 am UTC

Yes and no. The current sorry state of the US medical research is almost entirely due to the fact that it is entirely private.

When Big Tobacco funds medical research, then the majority of studies will "prove" that tobacco is fine for you. When Insurance Companies fund research, the majority of studies "prove" that the cheapest solution is in fact the best. When Drug companies fund research, their studies "prove" that their drugs are the best. There is very very little patient centered research in the US right now, and thanks to the Affordable Care Act... we finally have a small portion of taxes going towards funding patient-centered medical research.

Private researchers kill science when it goes against their business model. Do you really trust Big Oil to discover renewable energy?

Fortunately, for things like renewable energy, it is possible for the free market to compete. People believe that renewable energy can be cheaper in the long run, so private industry will probably fund that area just fine. We don't have to rely on big oil to create renewable energy for us. But comparative effectiveness medical research? No entity in the current market actually benefits from the truth. So no one actively seeks it out. So we end up with 50 drugs, all of which are better than a placebo (by FDA mandate, they have to be tested against a placebo...). But... we don't know how those 50 drugs relate to each other. When are certain drugs more effective than other drugs? Americans are utterly behind on that kind of research.

The way you make money in medicine is by selling drugs (or medical devices), or selling insurance. Neither entity can be trusted with improving the field of medicine, because both have a conflict of interest. Neither are interested in improving the patient's experience.

I'm not saying that the research doesn't happen... but what I'm trying to say is that there is no money in finding that information out. It doesn't improve GDP, it doesn't improve investments. It isn't a sustainable growth path for any company. No company actually wants to figure out the most effective drug. (Not that they're sabotaging research efforts... they're just not really trying). So outside of pro-bono work from universities, the work doesn't really get done.
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Re: End Government Funding of Science?

Postby Lucrece » Wed Aug 07, 2013 5:14 am UTC

Making research private would be horrible. This garbage is from the Cato Institute for fuck's sake.

I hate arguments that only useful/profitable outcomes should be a measure for funding projects. Why would sports or performances ever be funded over more "useful" things? Things like art or entertainment may not have tangible value, but they are of immense importance to the well-being of people.


NASA's curiosities have ended in amazing introductions to the market. If they didn't fiddle with seemingly "useless" projects a lot of the ideas and results we used to bear something useful later on would have never seen the light of day.
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Re: End Government Funding of Science?

Postby Thesh » Wed Aug 07, 2013 5:24 am UTC

My problem with the private sector right now is the patent system is turning into a litigation minefield, meaning that it is getting less and less profitable to develop new technologies. I'm not sure there's a way to fix the litigation problem, other than abolishing patents, but that also makes R&D less profitable. In that case, it seems like government is going to have to back most R&D, which I also don't see as a bad thing in the first place.
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Re: End Government Funding of Science?

Postby Angua » Wed Aug 07, 2013 5:36 am UTC

Also, good luck ever getting new treatments for malaria, African sleeping sickness, etc while just relying on the private sector. Or even effective treatments for the orphan genetic diseases if thinking about the 3rd world doesn't matter to you.
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Re: End Government Funding of Science?

Postby Thesh » Wed Aug 07, 2013 5:43 am UTC

Well the third world and orphans seem to be a drain on the economy anyway, and therefore not worth helping. After all, isn't the objective of all government policy to grow the economy?
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Re: End Government Funding of Science?

Postby addams » Wed Aug 07, 2013 5:46 am UTC

Are we Voting?

Increase Government Science funding.
Increase Government Oversight of Private Research.
For all of the reasons other posters have noted and many, many more good reasons.

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Re: End Government Funding of Science?

Postby Angua » Wed Aug 07, 2013 5:58 am UTC

Thesh wrote:Well the third world and orphans seem to be a drain on the economy anyway, and therefore not worth helping. After all, isn't the objective of all government policy to grow the economy?

Orphan genetic diseases aren't diseases of orphans - they are diseases that don't get much funding because no one cares about them as they don't affect that many people and/or aren't high profile enough, like alkaptonuria.
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Re: End Government Funding of Science?

Postby Thesh » Wed Aug 07, 2013 6:00 am UTC

Gotcha. I have never heard the term before.
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Re: End Government Funding of Science?

Postby Tyndmyr » Wed Aug 07, 2013 6:08 am UTC

Arariel wrote:So the Cato Institute just published this article, 'The Case against Public Science', which gives several reasons why science should be left to the private sector. Among the highlights:
  • The increase in government funding of science since the beginning of the Cold War has had no effect on long-run economic growth:
    Spoiler:
    But it was the Cold War that sustained those governments’ commitment to funding science, and today those governments’ budgets for academic science dwarf those from the private sector; and the effect of this largesse on those nations’ long-term rates of economic growth has been … zero. The long-term rates of economic growth since 1830 for the UK or the United States show no deflections coinciding with the inauguration of significant government money for research (indeed, the rates show few if any deflections in the long-term: the long-term rate of economic growth in the lead industrialized nations has been steady at approximately 2 per cent per year for nearly two centuries now, with short-term booms and busts cancelling each other out in the long term.)


This is decently accurate. That said, some types of research just don't really translate to an economy boost, and were never really intended to. Even those that might, like the LHC, for instance, probably have EXTREMELY long lead times before they show up in actual efficiency boosts. Things like weapons development can't be expected to be that big of a long term thing, since weapons are generally not a productive thing that improve economic growth over the long term.

Now, you do still need weapons, because getting taken over by a foreign power, or losing your interests abroad can be quite costly...but you won't necessarily see a more powerful military result in a better economy. Economic efficiency is extremely powerful, and to be aimed for, but it may not capture absolutely everything.

  • Private R&D stimulates economic growth, while public R&D might actually crowd out private R&D, having an adverse effect on private growth:
    Spoiler:
    The contemporary economic evidence, moreover, confirms that the government funding of R&D has no economic benefit. Thus in 2003 the OECD (Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development—the industrialized nations’ economic research agency) published its Sources of Economic Growth in OECD Countries, which reviewed all the major measurable factors that might explain the different rates of growth of the 21 leading world economies between 1971 and 1998. And it found that whereas privately funded R&D stimulated economic growth, publicly funded R&D had no impact.

    The authors of the report were disconcerted by their own findings. “The negative results for public R&D are surprising,” they wrote. They speculated that publicly funded R&D might crowd out privately funded R&D which, if true, suggests that publicly funded R&D might actually damage economic growth. Certainly both I and Walter Park of the American University had already reported that the OECD data showed that government funding for R&D does indeed crowd out private funding, to the detriment of economic growth. In Park’s words, “the direct effect of public research is weakly negative, as might be the case if public research spending has crowding-out effects which adversely affect private output growth.”


  • No impact likely means that if there is a crowding factor, it's a very weak one. There are some limited resources at play, of course...only so many labs, so many scientists, etc...but over the long term, these should adjust to fit the market. Crowding effects should be mostly fixable by
    A. Not researching things that the private market is already doing.
    B. Keeping public funding fairly constant.

    Sharp variations in funding is going to cause market irregularities, and is going to impact private funding as well, so that's easy enough to avoid. As for the other option, private research tends to focus strongly on certain aspects. For instance, it is VERY good at turning a fairly well understood tech into a product that money can be made from. Public money spent on that sort of research probably is a waste. There's plenty of pure research opportunities that are pretty far away from that, though.

  • The nonexcludability excuse (people will 'steal' inventions) fails because copying is very expensive:
    Spoiler:
    costs of copying were on average 65 per cent of the costs of original invention. And the time taken to copy was, on average, 70 per cent of the time taken by the original invention.
  • Firms pay researchers to do basic research to establish their credibility in a field:
    Spoiler:
    In a 1990 paper with the telling title of “Why Do Firms Do Basic Research With Their Own Money?” Nathan Rosenberg of Stanford University showed that the down payment that a potential copier has to make before he or she can even begin to copy an innovation is their own prior contribution to the field: only when your own research is credible can you understand the field. And what do credible researchers do? They publish papers and patents that others can read, and they produce goods that others can strip down. These constitute their down payment to the world of copyable science.


  • Mmm. Not sure I entirely buy this. Yeah, sure, 65 to 70% of the cost is still a lot, but it's a lot less than 100%. Enough to provide an advantage to a copier. Of course, patent law, etc tries to address this, but it has it's own weaknesses. I don't want to get side tracked into that, but this is sort of a big issue with a lot of complicating factors.

  • Scientists in industry share knowledge in order to build on each others' research:
    Spoiler:
    Industrial scientists have long known that sharing knowledge is useful (why do you think competitor companies cluster?) though anti-trust law can force them to be discreet. So in 1985, reporting on a survey of 100 American companies, Edwin Mansfield found that “[i]nformation concerning the detailed nature and operation of a new product or process generally leaks out within a year.” Actually, it’s not so much leaked as traded: in a survey of eleven American steel companies, Eric von Hippel of MIT’s Sloan School of Management found that ten of them regularly swapped proprietary information with rivals. In an international survey of 102 firms, Thomas Allen (also of Sloan) found that no fewer than 23 per cent of their important innovations came from swapping information with rivals. Industrial science is in practice a collective process of shared knowledge.
  • Should the state get out of science?


    Well, yeah, sharing information is pretty essential to science in practice. You CAN do science without ever consulting with others or sharing info, but you're gonna waste a lot of time and resources on pointless stuff. In some cases, it's perfectly logical for commercial science to share, resulting in both the sharers ending up better off than they would otherwise be. It's a bit like open source, really. Some companies have found business models that work well in conjunction with open source. Some, not so much.

    Still, 23%, while a significant minority, is definitely still a minority. Sort of like companies that do open source, actually.

    I do think that publicly funded research generally needs to be publicly distributed for free, and be non-excludable. I mean, if you don't have that, then the advantages of publicly funding research seem relatively minor.

    I don't think that this article is sufficient reason to cease public funding, but it's an excellent reason to look at the what, why and how of what we're publicly funding.

    Lucrece wrote:Making research private would be horrible. This garbage is from the Cato Institute for fuck's sake.

    I hate arguments that only useful/profitable outcomes should be a measure for funding projects. Why would sports or performances ever be funded over more "useful" things? Things like art or entertainment may not have tangible value, but they are of immense importance to the well-being of people.


    NASA's curiosities have ended in amazing introductions to the market. If they didn't fiddle with seemingly "useless" projects a lot of the ideas and results we used to bear something useful later on would have never seen the light of day.


    I would draw a distinction between profitable and useful. Something can be one but not the other for a number of reasons.

    However, I do think that arts/entertainment grants are likely a lot less effective than scientific research(either public or private). Funding art is not significantly different from funding fashion. I can't really see a reason to fund abstract art but not something worn by a runway model....and any wonderful benefits claimed for mankind for a great painting or the like seem to be dwarfed in comparison to science's successes. Yes, a picture may make you feel different things. New medical research may also make you feel different things...and it might actually save your life.

    Thesh wrote:My problem with the private sector right now is the patent system is turning into a litigation minefield, meaning that it is getting less and less profitable to develop new technologies. I'm not sure there's a way to fix the litigation problem, other than abolishing patents, but that also makes R&D less profitable. In that case, it seems like government is going to have to back most R&D, which I also don't see as a bad thing in the first place.


    It's a mess, for sure. Something is going to have to be done about it, and killing off patent trolls is likely to be an essential part. At some point, we have to accept that if a company produces nothing but lawsuits for an extended period of time, there's really no public interest in the public working to protect the patents of that entity.

    Angua wrote:Also, good luck ever getting new treatments for malaria, African sleeping sickness, etc while just relying on the private sector. Or even effective treatments for the orphan genetic diseases if thinking about the 3rd world doesn't matter to you.


    You mean treatments like Malarone? Sure, it is fairly easy to point out that drug companies put a lot of money into lifestyle medications because they're a demand for them...but it's not accurate to say that no research happens on third world problems.

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    Re: End Government Funding of Science?

    Postby Lucrece » Wed Aug 07, 2013 6:11 am UTC

    Art and entertainment can be life saving. It gives people purpose and a sense of belonging. It's good to be healthy, but being healthy does not guarantee being happy or enjoying life. Keeping masses entertained and connected serves a rather important purpose for keeping society functional.
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    Re: End Government Funding of Science?

    Postby Angua » Wed Aug 07, 2013 6:14 am UTC

    Wasn't malarone developed in a public/private partnership? You still need incentives to get the drug companies to make these products.

    edited to add - and even if we're counting malarone for the private sector, we still don't have much else for malaria (and we're losing starting to get resistant strains), or any of the other diseases.
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    Re: End Government Funding of Science?

    Postby addams » Wed Aug 07, 2013 6:56 am UTC

    oh, fun!
    We can derail this into Malaria for a Post or Two.
    The Mods might let us. We may learn something about the Topic on our way.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Malaria
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    Wikipedia is for general education.
    What Profit is there in Research for Malaria?

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    Malaria can be Worse than Wiki says it is.
    Sounds bad enough. Right?

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    Re: End Government Funding of Science?

    Postby Tyndmyr » Wed Aug 07, 2013 7:15 am UTC

    Lucrece wrote:Art and entertainment can be life saving. It gives people purpose and a sense of belonging. It's good to be healthy, but being healthy does not guarantee being happy or enjoying life. Keeping masses entertained and connected serves a rather important purpose for keeping society functional.


    Do you have statistics demonstrating that public funding of arts and entertainment result in a longer lifespan or increased happiness?

    Angua wrote:Wasn't malarone developed in a public/private partnership? You still need incentives to get the drug companies to make these products.

    edited to add - and even if we're counting malarone for the private sector, we still don't have much else for malaria (and we're losing starting to get resistant strains), or any of the other diseases.


    Honestly, most truly big projects tend to have at least some mix of public and private. It's really hard to count something as absolutely, 100% one or the other, because any big corporation is going to try to justify public money for anything like that, and take advantage of any public research on the topic.

    But they're not ignoring the issue. The developing world has benefited greatly from both public AND private research in the developed world. What's your argument here...that the developing world would have been better off without private research? Or that you think private research should prioritize differently? The first is unsupportable, and the latter requires much more justification than you've given here...

    As for orphan diseases, it's certainly true that diseases that affect massive amounts of people get vastly more attention than diseases that affect only a very few. That doesn't really seem strange to me, though. Resources are always limited, and small sample sizes bring their own problems. I'm also unsurprised that people tend to be more willing to donate money and promote research for children's causes than say, the elderly.

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    Re: End Government Funding of Science?

    Postby Angua » Wed Aug 07, 2013 11:31 am UTC

    My point is that if you rely solely on private research, it's not going to benefit people who can't pay enough for it.

    Public-Private partnerships are a specific type of funding program that's being used by organisations such as WHO to try and promote research in infectious diseases that are mainly a problem for the third world, not me blurring lines between where the research it's coming from.
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    Re: End Government Funding of Science?

    Postby Queue » Wed Aug 07, 2013 11:31 am UTC

    Full disclosure: I work for a Canadian federal science-based department. My father was a publicly-funded scientist. Bias in favour of publicly-funded science may appear.
    Arariel wrote:- The increase in government funding of science since the beginning of the Cold War has had no effect on long-run economic growth.
    - Private R&D stimulates economic growth, while public R&D might actually crowd out private R&D, having an adverse effect on private growth.
    - The nonexcludability excuse (people will 'steal' inventions) fails because copying is very expensive.
    - Firms pay researchers to do basic research to establish their credibility in a field.
    - Scientists in industry share knowledge in order to build on each others' research.

    Problem: Lots of science isn't done for economic growth. Lots of science, in fact, has no economic value whatsoever, sometimes for decades (until we find use) or forever. Money isn't why we do science. It's why some scientists do science, but curiosity is still The Reason. If someone tells you that we should want science to be beneficial, or profitable, or not kill us while we're studying it, or even unlikely to cause the return of Cthulhu, well, we just can't make you that promise.

    In perspective, think about what a scientist actually needs: Time, resources, and the ability to get his findings to peer review. None of those things are exclusively available with any body or individual. In fact, I'd argue that the same liability exists with both sides as well - the risk that the person paying for it wants specific results (or doesn't want other specific results).
    Last edited by Queue on Wed Aug 07, 2013 1:57 pm UTC, edited 1 time in total.

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    Re: End Government Funding of Science?

    Postby CorruptUser » Wed Aug 07, 2013 12:23 pm UTC

    We are using the Internet, which was created using government research. The only way the Internet has been "bad" for the economy is piracy, which does prevent markets from efficiently allocating resources to new games, movies, music, etc.

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    Re: End Government Funding of Science?

    Postby KnightExemplar » Wed Aug 07, 2013 1:14 pm UTC

    CorruptUser wrote:We are using the Internet, which was created using government research. The only way the Internet has been "bad" for the economy is piracy, which does prevent markets from efficiently allocating resources to new games, movies, music, etc.


    This. Although, before hyperbole brings us away... it should be mentioned that a lot of the internet has been created pro-bono by for profit companies. The most important contribution to modern webpages is "AJAX" for example, which was researched and defined by Microsoft (hardly the "giving" type).

    AJAX is the technology that allows a web browser to gather more information without browsing to different web pages. GMail was one of the first big webapps to use AJAX for example, and it uses AJAX to pull more emails from Google without you hitting "refresh" every few seconds. Basically, AJAX allows the web browser to automatically hit refresh. Ever notice that today's web pages just pop up new information for you without hitting F5 all the time anymore? Thats AJAX working for you... and you have Microsoft to thank for that little contribution. Another major innovation were Cookies, which were invented by Netscape (as a means to sell more Netscape browsers and servers).

    So even in the absence of government funds, it is possible for innovation to take place. Hell, maybe even in the majority of cases, it is possible for the free market to innovate on its own.

    Overall, the Internet is a very solid example. The baseline of the Internet was created by DARPA, and early standards were created so that government computers could talk to each other. (AKA: Layer-3 through 5. Protocol layers on the internet stack). But it is important to know about all of the wasted effort from other companies that went into this space. Xerox and Novell's IPX / SPX protocols were completely subsumed by DOD-sponsored TCP/IP for example. Competing protocols stood no chance, there is no competition to TCP/IP, and innovation at that level is basically dead (see Stream Control Transmission Protocol, technically superior to TCP/IP and UDP/IP, but it isn't going to take over).

    So there are examples here that prove everyone's point. The internet is the source of great amounts of innovation, a lot of it government sponsored, a lot of it free-market derived.
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    Re: End Government Funding of Science?

    Postby Izawwlgood » Wed Aug 07, 2013 1:28 pm UTC

    Angua wrote:Also, good luck ever getting new treatments for malaria, African sleeping sickness, etc while just relying on the private sector. Or even effective treatments for the orphan genetic diseases if thinking about the 3rd world doesn't matter to you.
    I just want to point out that Pfizer currently has an infectious disease research branch that is ~1/3rd the size of the NIHs total budget. The notion that for profit research groups only conduct for profit research (can we COMBINE these pills?!) is incorrect, and the notion that government research isn't often profit driven is also incorrect.

    There are strong arguments to be made both ways, but personally, I don't think government science will be the leader in the future, and I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing. Considering all the issues presently with funding allocation, sharing of information, and that most research is headed by tenured professors, there are reasons to look to private research as a more streamlined system.
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    Re: End Government Funding of Science?

    Postby CorruptUser » Wed Aug 07, 2013 1:36 pm UTC

    The problem I have with public research is that it is all to easy for funding to get hijacked by a few nutjobs for the wrong sort of research. Stem cells being a good example.

    The only reliable way to get government to fund research is to pitch it as a national security issue. For example, want to do some research on the effects of pheromones on human interaction? Tell the military you can build a gay bomb.

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    Re: End Government Funding of Science?

    Postby KnightExemplar » Wed Aug 07, 2013 1:40 pm UTC

    The notion that for profit research groups only conduct for profit research (can we COMBINE these pills?!) is incorrect


    I didn't want to imply that. However, I bet you that the research that Pfizer is doing on the pills are all FDA-mandated ones. (ie: Pill vs Placebo, drug interaction, etc. etc). Furthermore, I know for a fact that patient-centered comparative effectiveness research does not happen as often as it should. Companies don't like comparing their pills to other companies: it isn't good politics (aka: you make enemies with other companies), it doesn't increase your profit margin, and it isn't necessary for you to get approved by the FDA.

    And when it does happen, everyone is always suspect of the results. Pfizer research seems to indicate that Pfizer pills are the most effective drug on the market... do you really trust that?

    Can doctors or decision makers trust Pfizer comparative-effectiveness research? Even IF Pfizer was 100% honest, you have to be an awfully naiive doctor / policymaker to believe 100% of Pfizer research / marketing.

    Its a classic market failure. There needs to be a trusted 3rd party who conducts the research, otherwise no one will trust the results. So, drug companies focus on the research they have to do (ie: proving that the drug works... which is indeed important). But taking it to the next level: discovering which drugs are _best_, is a major issue in the US.
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    Re: End Government Funding of Science?

    Postby Izawwlgood » Wed Aug 07, 2013 1:52 pm UTC

    KnightExemplar wrote:Its a classic market failure. There needs to be a trusted 3rd party who conducts the research, otherwise no one will trust the results. So, drug companies focus on the research they have to do (ie: proving that the drug works... which is indeed important). But taking it to the next level: discovering which drugs are _best_, is a major issue in the US.
    There are privately run 3rd party style quality control evaluators; in markets where they have competition, they strive for excellence, in markets where they don't have competition, you get the FDA.
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    Re: End Government Funding of Science?

    Postby CorruptUser » Wed Aug 07, 2013 1:56 pm UTC

    Which (The FDA) sadly has been neutered over the years, as evidenced by the mere existence of alternative 'medicine'.

    Hey Republicans, alt medicine tends to funnel funds to Democrats. You could starve your political opponents if you strengthen the FDA!

    Hey Democrats, faith healing tends to funnel funds to Republicans. You could starve your political opponents if you strengthen the FDA!
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    Re: End Government Funding of Science?

    Postby Izawwlgood » Wed Aug 07, 2013 1:58 pm UTC

    CorruptUser wrote:Which (The FDA) sadly has been neutered over the years, as evidenced by the mere existence of alternative 'medicine'.
    Well, no; it's my understanding that alt meds simply don't put 'FDA approved' on the bottles, and they can't then promise cures, only 'improvements'. Unfortunately, alternative medicine is an example of run away free market as much as it's an example of why the government can't be trusted to be an oversight organization.
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    Re: End Government Funding of Science?

    Postby KnightExemplar » Wed Aug 07, 2013 2:02 pm UTC

    Izawwlgood wrote:
    KnightExemplar wrote:Its a classic market failure. There needs to be a trusted 3rd party who conducts the research, otherwise no one will trust the results. So, drug companies focus on the research they have to do (ie: proving that the drug works... which is indeed important). But taking it to the next level: discovering which drugs are _best_, is a major issue in the US.
    There are privately run 3rd party style quality control evaluators; in markets where they have competition, they strive for excellence, in markets where they don't have competition, you get the FDA.


    Precisely, there is tons of quality-control research out there. But none cover comparative effectiveness research.

    Quality controls answers the question "Does it work"? But to advance medicine, you need to answer the question "Of the currently available solutions... what works best?"

    Its a different form of (very important) research that doesn't happen in the US (yet). A new bureaucracy is getting set up thanks to the Affordable Care Act that will solve this problem.
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    Re: End Government Funding of Science?

    Postby CorruptUser » Wed Aug 07, 2013 2:22 pm UTC

    Alt medicine gets around it by declaring themselves to be supplements, etc, rather than actual medicine. Otherwise they have to state 'not approved by the FDA'. Homeopathy doesn't need to label that, given that the product doesn't even contain a single molecule of medicine. (18 grams of water is made up of 6*10^23 molecules, meaning that anything more diluted than 1 in 6*10^23 simply does not exist in 18 grams of water. Homeopathy claims 10^60 dilution, which is less than a single atom diluted into the entire universe.)

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    Re: End Government Funding of Science?

    Postby Izawwlgood » Wed Aug 07, 2013 2:32 pm UTC

    CorruptUser wrote:Alt medicine gets around it by declaring themselves to be supplements, etc, rather than actual medicine. Otherwise they have to state 'not approved by the FDA'. Homeopathy doesn't need to label that, given that the product doesn't even contain a single molecule of medicine. (18 grams of water is made up of 6*10^23 molecules, meaning that anything more diluted than 1 in 6*10^23 simply does not exist in 18 grams of water. Homeopathy claims 10^60 dilution, which is less than a single atom diluted into the entire universe.)
    Yeah... You're supporting the point I was making in response to your claim that this was due to the neutering of the FDA.
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    Re: End Government Funding of Science?

    Postby Zamfir » Wed Aug 07, 2013 2:38 pm UTC

    There was this some hubbub last year, when the Koch brothers were unhappy with Cato, and they fired some key people. I guess this the new course, better suited to the paymasters?

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    Re: End Government Funding of Science?

    Postby CorruptUser » Wed Aug 07, 2013 2:48 pm UTC

    Alt medicine shouldnt be allowed to get around the FDA. I'm not sure you should be allowed to tout the health benefits of anything you put in/on your body without FDA approval.

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    Re: End Government Funding of Science?

    Postby Tyndmyr » Wed Aug 07, 2013 7:38 pm UTC

    Angua wrote:My point is that if you rely solely on private research, it's not going to benefit people who can't pay enough for it.

    Public-Private partnerships are a specific type of funding program that's being used by organisations such as WHO to try and promote research in infectious diseases that are mainly a problem for the third world, not me blurring lines between where the research it's coming from.


    I'm not accusing you of blurring the lines, merely pointing out that as the nature of science is to build on what came before, almost nothing is wholly publicly OR privately funded. There is simply going to be overlap.

    But regardless of that, private funded research does benefit even the poor who cannot pay. Maybe not as much, and maybe not as fast, but scientific research eventually helps everyone...vaccination programs, for instance, benefit even those who are not vaccinated for whatever reason.

    KnightExemplar wrote:
    CorruptUser wrote:We are using the Internet, which was created using government research. The only way the Internet has been "bad" for the economy is piracy, which does prevent markets from efficiently allocating resources to new games, movies, music, etc.


    This. Although, before hyperbole brings us away... it should be mentioned that a lot of the internet has been created pro-bono by for profit companies. The most important contribution to modern webpages is "AJAX" for example, which was researched and defined by Microsoft (hardly the "giving" type).


    Entirely correct. The internet is a fantastic example of all manner of bits of publicly funded research, privately funded research, and hell, even just individuals messing around not being funded by anyone. Without any of these components, the whole would be greatly lessened. Sure, maybe the internet as we know it would still exist if we were missing public funding. Or private funding. But in either case, it would definitely have taken longer to get here.



    And yes, alt medicine is generally terrible, and helpful to nobody but the purveyors of the crap. Wouldn't really describe it as science, though. As such, I think it's fairly irrelevant to actual research.

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    Re: End Government Funding of Science?

    Postby Angua » Wed Aug 07, 2013 7:55 pm UTC

    Tyndmyr wrote:
    Angua wrote:My point is that if you rely solely on private research, it's not going to benefit people who can't pay enough for it.

    Public-Private partnerships are a specific type of funding program that's being used by organisations such as WHO to try and promote research in infectious diseases that are mainly a problem for the third world, not me blurring lines between where the research it's coming from.


    I'm not accusing you of blurring the lines, merely pointing out that as the nature of science is to build on what came before, almost nothing is wholly publicly OR privately funded. There is simply going to be overlap.

    But regardless of that, private funded research does benefit even the poor who cannot pay. Maybe not as much, and maybe not as fast, but scientific research eventually helps everyone...vaccination programs, for instance, benefit even those who are not vaccinated for .


    A public-private partnership is more about the public organisations providing the incentive for private companies to actively research the poorer areas. It's not about who is doing the actual scientific process.

    Also, vaccines are really not that effective if not enough of the population gets them if you're arguing for herd immunity.
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    Re: End Government Funding of Science?

    Postby LaserGuy » Wed Aug 07, 2013 8:06 pm UTC

    Tyndmyr wrote:And yes, alt medicine is generally terrible, and helpful to nobody but the purveyors of the crap. Wouldn't really describe it as science, though. As such, I think it's fairly irrelevant to actual research.


    Somebody has to do the research to show that alt. medicine is crap. Businesses have little-to-no incentive to do this kind of work. They'd rather just sell the stuff.

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    Re: End Government Funding of Science?

    Postby Izawwlgood » Wed Aug 07, 2013 8:30 pm UTC

    LaserGuy wrote:
    Tyndmyr wrote:And yes, alt medicine is generally terrible, and helpful to nobody but the purveyors of the crap. Wouldn't really describe it as science, though. As such, I think it's fairly irrelevant to actual research.


    Somebody has to do the research to show that alt. medicine is crap. Businesses have little-to-no incentive to do this kind of work. They'd rather just sell the stuff.
    Again, 3rd party quality control evaluation is a thing, and in some cases is a very profitable thing.

    The opposite tends to be how it's conducted; someone has to do the research to show that the medicine does something, and staking their business on the veracity of the claim is the incentive. The FDA is not very good at what it does, but has been steadily getting better over the last two decades or so.
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    Re: End Government Funding of Science?

    Postby LaserGuy » Wed Aug 07, 2013 8:36 pm UTC

    Izawwlgood wrote:
    LaserGuy wrote:
    Tyndmyr wrote:And yes, alt medicine is generally terrible, and helpful to nobody but the purveyors of the crap. Wouldn't really describe it as science, though. As such, I think it's fairly irrelevant to actual research.


    Somebody has to do the research to show that alt. medicine is crap. Businesses have little-to-no incentive to do this kind of work. They'd rather just sell the stuff.


    Again, 3rd party quality control evaluation is a thing, and in some cases is a very profitable thing.


    Yes, Moody's and co. apparently made a killing from giving out AAA ratings to junk bonds.

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    Re: End Government Funding of Science?

    Postby Tyndmyr » Wed Aug 07, 2013 8:46 pm UTC

    LaserGuy wrote:
    Tyndmyr wrote:And yes, alt medicine is generally terrible, and helpful to nobody but the purveyors of the crap. Wouldn't really describe it as science, though. As such, I think it's fairly irrelevant to actual research.


    Somebody has to do the research to show that alt. medicine is crap. Businesses have little-to-no incentive to do this kind of work. They'd rather just sell the stuff.


    Not really. Alternate medicine is basically stuff someone put in a bottle. You need to demonstrate effiacy in order for it to become real medicine.

    So, it's not really pragmatic to wait for someone to show it's crap. The logical response is to assume alt medicine is crap in general. If it had benefits, it'd be medicine.

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    Re: End Government Funding of Science?

    Postby Izawwlgood » Wed Aug 07, 2013 8:51 pm UTC

    LaserGuy wrote:
    Izawwlgood wrote:
    LaserGuy wrote:
    Tyndmyr wrote:And yes, alt medicine is generally terrible, and helpful to nobody but the purveyors of the crap. Wouldn't really describe it as science, though. As such, I think it's fairly irrelevant to actual research.


    Somebody has to do the research to show that alt. medicine is crap. Businesses have little-to-no incentive to do this kind of work. They'd rather just sell the stuff.


    Again, 3rd party quality control evaluation is a thing, and in some cases is a very profitable thing.


    Yes, Moody's and co. apparently made a killing from giving out AAA ratings to junk bonds.

    Yes, corruption exists. This is relevant how?
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    Re: End Government Funding of Science?

    Postby CorruptUser » Wed Aug 07, 2013 8:52 pm UTC

    LaserGuy wrote:
    Tyndmyr wrote:And yes, alt medicine is generally terrible, and helpful to nobody but the purveyors of the crap. Wouldn't really describe it as science, though. As such, I think it's fairly irrelevant to actual research.


    Somebody has to do the research to show that alt. medicine is crap. Businesses have little-to-no incentive to do this kind of work. They'd rather just sell the stuff.


    You got it backwards. The people selling alt medicine should have to do the research that alt medicine isn't crap.

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    Re: End Government Funding of Science?

    Postby LaserGuy » Wed Aug 07, 2013 9:05 pm UTC

    CorruptUser wrote:
    LaserGuy wrote:
    Tyndmyr wrote:And yes, alt medicine is generally terrible, and helpful to nobody but the purveyors of the crap. Wouldn't really describe it as science, though. As such, I think it's fairly irrelevant to actual research.


    Somebody has to do the research to show that alt. medicine is crap. Businesses have little-to-no incentive to do this kind of work. They'd rather just sell the stuff.


    You got it backwards. The people selling alt medicine should have to do the research that alt medicine isn't crap.


    People with a strong vested interest in getting a particular conclusion have a surprising tendency to generate research that supports that conclusion. Even in legitimate medical research, publication bias has become a pretty significant problem.


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