January 26, 2007

For the love of science

People are always quick to dismiss the value that science has in their lives, particularly the type of science for which the U of C is famous. But the type of research conducted at top institutions across the country is critical to the intellectual and technological advancement of this country and the world. This idea is sadly lost on Congress, which recently froze federal spending on scientific research, putting many projects on hold for the time being.

The freeze’s biggest risk is the threat it poses to America’s supremacy in the area of scientific research. Cutting the funding to this research means resources, particularly the minds that made these projects possible, will go elsewhere, notably overseas, where centers in Europe and Asia have long been threatening America’s intellectual primacy. Granted, this claim has become cliché over the years, as pundits and scaremongers have repeatedly addressed it. But it is cliché for a reason: Staying on top means investing in science. There is really no way around this.

This is also a critical issue for the U of C. As an institution overwhelmingly dedicated to research, this cut could prove deadly. The University’s caché is largely tied to the quality and importance of the research it produces. People around the country and world still associate the U of C with the groundbreaking research conducted by Nobel laureates like Enrico Fermi.

To put this issue in perspective, students on campus were willing to dedicate countless hours writing columns to the Maroon, protesting on the Quads, and harassing the administration over the entirely superficial change to the Uncommon Application to make it a sometimes slightly Common Application. That change might cause a couple more “non–U of C” students to apply and matriculate, but if funding is cut to science research here, the U of C would be drastically harmed in its ability to reach its main goal, the advancement of knowledge.

Students need to be aware that changes hindering the progress of science on a national and even international level are taking place on their own campus.