Wednesday, November 5, 2008

What to expect

Now that the election has come and gone, where does that leave us? New Scientist has the scoop on the Obama planned science and technology policy (pdf here). They incorrectly state that 60 Nobel Laureates endorsed Obama. The correct number is 76 according to SEFORA.

Here's a rundown.
- Doubling the science funding over 10 years.
- Re-promotion of the Science and Technology Advisor to a cabinet level position. This will also be one of the first positions to be filled.
- Science and Tech committees will be chosen by their integrity, professional reputation, and ability to remain objective, unlike with Bush where you only needed to come from Texas and have a valid subscription to The National Review and Popular Science.
- "Grand Challenges" The first one mentioned is for alternative energy, but that is not the only one. This is the same idea as the X Prize that has been inspiring the private sector to literally reach for the stars. In other words: High risk will equal high reward. With the millions of dollars needed for realistically advanced BCI research, could the field be that far down on this list?
- Predictable, stable funding. Oh, sweet Lord, thank you.
- Multidisciplinary encouragement, probably similar to the NIH push for translational research. Of particular BCI interest, the example given is the convergence of nano, info-, and biotechnology.
- Tripling NSF grants. (Current chance of getting funding - ~19%)
- Treating broadband like a utility - everyone should have access.
- Emphasis on transitions from research to healthcare - listed the number one under health.

There has been no explicit mention of where the money is coming from. Chances are that the programs will be rolled out over a few years as troops are withdrawn from our various "Oops Wars" and taxes are ramped up for the wealthy. If we can find $700B to bail out Wall Street, we should be able to find a few billion to get the ball rolling. Besides, when The Economist and Warren Buffet approve of his economic policy, so before you rant about usual liberal spending or empty promises by politicians, there is some meat to back it up.

In general, the rock star technologies are stem cells, genetic engineering, and alternative energy, which are the big topics in the general media (and totally worthy of it - not trying to knock it by any means). BUT, the structure of the NIH and various funding agencies is such that the newly available money will be reaching other fields. For instance, NINDS (one of the institutes of the NIH, and a big, wonderful, amazing, omgomgomg can't say enough ;) ) will use the money to fund many projects on spinal cord repair, epilepsy research, and BCIs. It is in their best interest to diversify their investments, and the addition of the Grand Challenges makes to cover the rock star topics, more of those funds may end up in the BCI court. I hope. Another funding opportunity for BCIs is defense (DARPA, DoD, etc.), which is looking at getting a boost.

Other nice things to see:
- Return the emphasis on science, math and engineering for students and overall greater investment in education.
- More, better science teachers
- College tax credits
- Expansion of science education from K through community college

- Small business R&D tax credits.
- Fast Track visas for foreigners with technical expertise.
- Patent reform

There are also some giblets that seem to point toward better general infrastructure when it comes to tech - manufacturing, transportation, and IT research to name a few.

Overall, there is an emphasis on getting rid of this ridiculous, nauseating War Against Intelligence. The fact that ANYONE looked at Palin and said, "Yeah, I could see her as President!" is a testament to the jaw-dropping, knuckle-dragging stupidity that some in this country have embraced. Hopefully a few years of the Obama-rama will lessen that.


diane said...

Perfect Neurobiology Cartoon!

laura l. kilarski said...

thanks for the summary! it all sounds very good; maybe obama can sell alaska to finance?

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