Friday, February 06, 2009

Cuts to research funding

From occasional commenter crf:

"could you comment on the way the Genome Canada story is taking hold in the press, about Genome Canada, as reported in the Globe, being "The only agency that regularly finances large-scale science in Canada" (Carolyn Abraham, Globe and Mail Jan 29, 2009)"

I wish I could explain this bizarre episode. The government cuts all funding to Genome Canada, the agency which helped make Canada a leader in genetics research, and exactly the type of organization capable of creating the "shovel-ready" projects that everyone says are required to stimulate the economy [the US Senate just made a similar dubious decision, cutting funding for NSF, NOAA, etc. from the stimulus package].

The Canadian media did a nice job of picking up on the story. But the editors and reporters repeatedly make what should be an obviously wrong statement that Genome Canada was "the only agency that regularly finances large-scale science". Er, NSERC anyone?

Let me be clear: the mistake is not the important issue here -- the important issue is the government decision. It is a sad sign of how "truthiness" is infecting reporting in the internet age. Say something enough times and it becomes true in people's minds. Maybe that works? You could argue that a similar dynamic explains why the same thoroughly debunked arguments against the science of climate change (it's the sun! co2 lags temperature! the hockey stick is broken! mars is warming too!) keep re-appearing.

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