[Editorial] How The US Fund Cuts Due to War Affect Science and All Of Us

What is there to show for this? The two countries, Afghanistan and Iraq, don’t have stable governments. The Taliban has regrouped in Afghanistan and the Iraqis are discontent. Their economy is in shambles; communication and power lines are still not restored in many parts. Trade in the countries, especially in Iraq, has been permanently disfigured. Worst of all, terror cells are still active in other parts of the world and pose just as grave a threat. A 9/11 rerun seems unlikely, but 9/11 was unlikely to begin with.

We won! That's the correct answer! Right?

In the inevitable tug-of-war for monetary resources amongst the disciplines and top institutes, only those fields, promising to deliver relevant and immediately useful results, will have the luxury of monetary cushioning. Stem cell research, the projected next big thing in medicine, may have suffered long due to various sanctions by the Catholic Church and other religious bigots, ignorant of scientific methods and of the promises it holds, but it may have to suffer more due to the cuts. Though this field shouldn’t be in as dire a strait as the astronomy community, it may well find itself short-changed.

Scissors and Rocks – Papers missing

Even as we predict that presently relevant fields will be suffering the least, fields such as energy and environmental sciences may be amongst the worst victims. In the US, funding for studies in energy efficiency and renewable resources could be slashed by as much as 27-28 %, projecting a grim picture for the energy sector, the US and the future in fifty years. Perhaps no sector is as attached to the public security and well-being as this one. It need hardly be mentioned that lack of political consensus amongst the US Parliament on issues of climate change will put climate sciences on the back-burner.

Science, in general, is not a quick, open-and-shut case. It is a long drawn process, where even promising research insights might ultimately deliver nothing. Patience and perseverance are not only virtues, they are essential traits. It is not a self-funding process, either.

The American fund cuts will allow Europe to take the forefront in cutting-edge research in the world. They already have the upper hand in particle physics, with the LHC beating Fermilab (which will be closed down this November) hands down. They might soon take over in Astronomy and material sciences.

The Last Word

It can be debated whether America truly won the space race. For all you know, Soyuz is still in service, keeping a low-profile and getting its intended work done. After the end of the Space Shuttle Program, Soyuz becomes all the more indispensible. It has long been the most reliable, most cost-effective way to transport people in space. While it was initially marred by deaths of cosmonauts, while ferrying them to and from the Mir Space Station, it is now used as a reliable emergency space vehicle of the International Space Station, with one being permanently docked there. In space, while ambition is a necessary quality, being effective counts for more. That’s more than what could be said for the space shuttle program.

Atlantis on the left, Soyuz on the right. Guess who won!

It is becoming increasingly apparent that the War on Terror’ is not a war that can be won, but just sustained. Great amounts of political speculations can be made on this issue, but we’ll leave that out of this present article. It seems that terrorists might have indeed won the war by not letting the US win easy.

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Debjyoti Bardhan

Is a science geek, currently pursuing some sort of a degree (called a PhD) in Physics at TIFR, Mumbai. An enthusiastic but useless amateur photographer, his most favourite activity is simply lazing around. He is interested in all things interesting and scientific.