Support for fundamental, basic research has been an essential function of the federal government for decades. The National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health, and other federal agencies invest in scientific research that has led to some of our country’s most important innovations. Support for basic research has the potential to change the way we live, create new knowledge, solve societal challenges, and help us to better understand our world.
Still, some policy makers routinely dismiss projects as “wasteful” without attempting to fully understand their potential benefits to society or the progress of science.
Underlying federal support for basic research is the understanding that it is impossible to predict where or when the next big breakthrough will be uncovered. Sustained investment across all scientific fields allows us to hedge our bets as the search for the most promising scientific returns.
Unfortunately, not everyone agrees with or appreciates the need for investments in basic research. This is especially true for the social and behavioral sciences. While research projects from all disciplines are scrutinized from time to time, the social and behavioral sciences are most often singled out for attack, ridicule, or even defunding. What is more, often these attacks are made without any effort to understand the project or its potential benefits to society or to the future progress of science.
This series, “Setting the Record Straight on Wasteful Research,” provides an opportunity for researchers whose work has been publicly questioned or labeled by policy makers as “wasteful” to set the record straight about the value of their projects and why they are worth taxpayer support.