Free Science

In a few days, my experiment will end. Unfunded. And that is OK. I've learned a lot from the experience, first of all that funding is extremely limited for knowledge. We are hearing from the current President's administration that funding could be even tighter in the near future, as our government perhaps is deciding that it is not so important to them. And other policy changes certainly means that all of us are more anxious about protecting our liberties and personal finances.

I also learned how uncomfortable I am with asking for money. Though some faculty gripe, I actually believe I'm well paid for my job as a researcher and instructor at the University of Georgia. And so if it is important that those next 10 RNA libraries are processed, I can fund that from my paycheck. The question then starts to split, because the reason I didn't want to do that in the first place has a lot to do with objectivity and the desire to have work validated by other scientists; otherwise there is a slippery slope of simply paying for any desired work, whether it is of true value or not.

The other side of that question involves the truth about many of us in the sciences, however. We are doing this because we are truly fascinated, and so what is the value of truth to me, personally? How far do people go in their commitment to science? Of course many of us would recognize that the grad school years are financially lean but intellectually rich, and many scientists take on great sacrifices in comfort or financial security to answer the questions they want to see answered.

What are we willing to do in this new era? Only time will tell.