Fiscal Cliff Part II: What can scientists do to protect the future of basic science research?

By Christina Pyrgaki, @CPyrgaki In Fiscal Cliff Part I, I talked about how the fiscal cliff will affect science and what citizens should do about it. Part II is for scientists: how can we protect the future of scientific research? Researchers are trained to write for scientific journals or funding agencies, but they are not necessarily trained - or inclined - to write for broad audiences. Many scientists shy away from advocating science to lay audiences, either because it is too hard or because there is no incentive. Now, with the fiscal cliff looming, scientists need to re-examine this notion. In a recent survey Research!America reported that a whopping 72% of Americans believe that Congress and President Obama should take action to expand medical research within the first 100 days of the new Congress. While this number is very encouraging, we should note that 20% of people were “Not Sure” about important science and medical funding topics. This needs to be rectified! Here, answering “Not Sure” means one of two things: either people do not have the necessary information to answer the question or they do not consider the question important enough to think about. In either case, sciences loses.

Fiscal Cliff Part I: The next big challenge for science

By Christina Pyrgaki, @CPyrgaki For the last 35 years, the University of Lake Superior has published a list of banished words - words in the English language that are deemed overused, misused, or useless. Topping the 2013 version was a term that no American has been able to escape the past few months: fiscal cliff. While I agree that “fiscal cliff” has been overused, I do not know if it is fair to call it misused or useless. The term paints a clear picture of an entire nation standing at the verge of a cliff, in grave danger of falling off the edge at a single misstep. This analogy is not too far from the reality that the US faces, as our society truly is standing on a financial precipice. Several articles published over the past year have described our ominous situation, and have attempted to figure out how it all began. My favorite, posted in Forbes Magazine in November of 2012, talks about the Congressional passing of the Budget Control Act of 2011, which dictates the automatic, across-the-board cuts in federal spending.  But, Congress never really intended for this sequester to go into effect. It was meant more as