Under the auspices of keeping federal spending under control, Republican congressmen have launched yet another attack on the basic scientific research that could lead to useful, potentially job-creating discoveries.
House majority leader Eric Cantor (R-Virginia) announced last week that the YouCut Citizen Review, a crowdsourcing tool for identifying wasteful spending that should be cut, would make its very first target the National Science Foundation.
One would expect science-targeting politicians to have learned caution from Sarah Palins fruit-fly debacle, in which the 2008 vice presidential candidate mocked the methodology of research into neurological disorders like Down syndrome and autism, both of which afflict members of her family.
But in a video introduction to the YouCut review, Rep. Adrian Smith (R-Nebraska), a member of the House Committee on Science and Technology, pulls rank on peer review.
Help us identify grants that are wasteful or that you dont think are a good use of taxpayer dollars, he asks, mentioning university academics [who] received a $750,000 grant to develop computer models to analyze the on-field contributions of soccer players and scientists [who] received $1.2 million to model the sound of objects breaking for use by the videogame and movie industry.
Soccer, it turns out, happened to be a useful model for Northwestern University researchers trying to develop a framework for evaluating individual contributions to organizational success. Their work may enable better long-distance group collaboration, helping people in rural areas like, say, Smiths district of Nebraska compete against big-city companies.
As for the videogame modeling, its the work of Cornell University researchers developing algorithms for simulating sounds in real time. Even though its possible to realistically model the physics of splashing water or breaking glass, sonic modeling isnt nearly so developed. Figuring it out would transform how sound is computed in interactive virtual environments, say the researchers.
Its not hard to imagine noncommercial applications for immersive computer simulations, but it certainly would help videogame and movie makers and potentially create jobs in those fields. Smith, whose district has received $8.27 billion in farm subsidies since 1995, ought to applaud when government spending helps create jobs.
Video: Eric Cantor/YouTube.
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Article source: http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2010/12/nsf-youcut-review/