Wow! We have to learn from the Europeans!

Europe Plans 45% Boost To Science Investments, Funded By Slashing Farming Subsidies

BY Kit EatonWed Jul 6, 2011

NASA's James Webb Space telescope

Screw austerity: The E.U.'s science spending, which is running at about US$79 billion for the current 2007-2013 period, is getting a boost to $114 billion for 2014-2020. The E.U.'s proposal recognizes that only by spending money on innovation and future tech can income growth be assured. Apart from this 45%+ boost in science cash, the rest of the E.U.'s roughly trillion-dollar budget remains flat.

The proposal still awaits approval by the E.U.'s parliament and member states, but just getting this far is a milestone. The next phase is to forge spending into the next generation of the E.U.'s Framework Programme, which is its main research spending entity, to produce a plan called Horizon 2020. The spending shift has been championed by E.U. research commissioner Márie Geoghan-Quinn, and means that the share of the E.U. budget portioned out for scientific research will eventually double from its 4.5% figure in 2007 to 9% in 2020.

How will Europe pay for it? This is actually the biggest trick being pulled off: More than €4.5 billion would be transferred from the E.U.'s farm subsidies program, the Common Agricultural Policy. This is the enormous pile of cash paid by E.U. authorities to farmers each year to keep them in business, to keep food products rolling off the production line, and to keep fields fallow--as well as to diversify their businesses. Depending on where your political feelings lie, the CAP is either a majestic insurance policy that ties nations together and ensures E.U. autonomy in food produce, or a monstrous and embarrassing carbuncle that sees billions of euros wasted on an industry that should evolve. Whichever way you look at it, the CAP eats up so much of the E.U.'s funds that even this smallish redistribution of cash is a revelation.

The new science money will be spent on all sorts of initiatives, big and small. One of the first areas gives research priorities for projects on "healthy aging." One previous beneficiary that won't see additional cash, however, is the impressive ITER European fusion reaction experiments--destined to perhaps replace traditional nuclear power as an infinitely more sustainable and non-polluting alternative--which will now have to earn extra cash from member states individually.

Given that a report this week has suggested that European technology startups still see the best location to begin business as Silicon Valley, rather than locally, this news couldn't have had better timing. And though Obama has been criticized for not necessarily delivering on his science-centric promises, perhaps the E.U. can achieve more reliable results.

Views: 38

Comment by Fabio Parente on July 7, 2011 at 8:46am
The GMO-haters and generally the lovers of old-school agriculture won't like this one bit. I bet my own country, Italy, will do its utmost to try and prevent all this from happening. The field-working lobby can be pretty damn loud and most politicians in this country are populist souls, always ready to pander to the voting base just to win an election.
Comment by Sassan K. on July 7, 2011 at 9:50am

In contrast, why is our country becoming a country of illiterates and scientific degenerates? It is truly disgusting.

July 6, 2011

Panel Proposes Killing Webb Space Telescope

The House Appropriations Committee proposed Wednesday to kill the James Webb Space Telescope, the crown jewel of NASA’s astronomy plans for the next two decades.       

The telescope, named after a former administrator of NASA, is the successor to the Hubble Space Telescope, and it was designed to study the first stars and galaxies that emerged in the first hundred million years or so after the Big Bang.       

It was supposed to be launched in 2014, but NASA said last year that the project would require at least an additional $1.6 billion and several more years to finish, because of mismanagement.       

Just last week, NASA announced that it had finished polishing all the segments of the telescope’s mirror, which is 6.5 meters in diameter, but the agency has still not announced a new plan for testing and launching the telescope.       

The announcement of the telescope’s potential demise came as part of a draft budget for NASA and other agencies, including the Commerce and Justice Departments. In all, the committee proposed lopping $1.6 billion off NASA’s current budget, which is $18.4 billion for 2011. The Obama administration had originally requested $18.7 billion for NASA.       

Astronomers reacted with immediate dismay, fearing that the death of the Webb telescope could have the same dire impact on American astronomy that killing the Superconducting Supercollider, a giant particle accelerator in Texas, did in 1993 for American physics, sending leadership abroad.       

Canceling the Webb telescope would “have a profound impact on astrophysics far into the future, threatening U.S. leadership in space science,” said Matt Mountain, director of the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, which would run the new telescope. “This is particularly disappointing at a time when the nation is struggling to inspire students to take up science and engineering,” he added.       

Tod R. Lauer, an astronomer at the National Optical Astronomy Observatory in Tucson, echoed his view. “This would be an unmitigated disaster for cosmology,” he said. “After two decades of pushing the Hubble to its limits, which has revolutionized astronomy, the next step would be to pack up and give up. The Hubble is just good enough to see what we’re missing at the start of time.”       

The Webb telescope, he said, “would bring it home in full living color.”       

The Appropriation Committee’s proposal was the opening act in what is likely to be a long political drama, in which the Senate will eventually have a say. The measure is expected to be a

Comment by Arcus on July 7, 2011 at 11:55am

It is truly sad that Europe may one day soon surpass the US in science and technology spending and innovation. It would be much better if they started competing in who had the bigger budget. :)

If you follow Euronews or RT, there's usually one science story in every segment which isn't completely dumbed down. Indeed, RT beemed live for a couple hours from the last Soyuz mission from Baikonur. One good thing is that the Americans has stopped pissing their pants every time Russia takes leadership in the space race. ;)

Comment by Fabio Parente on July 7, 2011 at 12:06pm
@Arcus: That was maybe the only good thing about the Cold War. If Americans hadn't stopped pissing their pants as much as they have, they probably would have landed a manned mission on Mars a few years ago.
Comment by Arcus on July 7, 2011 at 12:24pm
We are almost destined to go there at some point anyway, this little setback probably will not have too much to say when the history books are written. It does increase the chance of the mission, when it finally happens, will be on journey for humanity and not "ordained by God".
Comment by Sassan K. on July 7, 2011 at 2:22pm
The James Webb Space Telescope is not dead, it was just under the first committee in the "House Appropriations Committee" I believe. It has not even gone to the Senate so I hope that this is just political maneuvering and everything works out OK....we need James Webb..


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