Why Sponsors Fund Research

1468 Words6 Pages
The motivations for applied research and development activities are usually explicit; the goal is to solve a particular problem or to make practical a particular product or service. Much of this work is done (and funded) by businesses with a clear duty to their owners to maximize profits. The motivations for basic research are much less clear, since the knowledge that is intended to be generated is not necessarily practical, and the outcomes are much less certain, and less certain to benefit the sponsor. Why do governments and other organizations decide to fund basic research? How do funders decide which basic research projects to pay for? Motivations for public funding Since the federal budget for academic science is the largest single source of basic research support, it is important to look at the public attitudes toward science funding, and the pressures on governmental decision-makers. The National Science Foundation (NSF) does periodic surveys on public attitudes regarding science and technology. In 2006, 87% of Americans expressed support for government funding of basic research, up from levels around 80% in past surveys dating back to 1979. The percentage of Americans who said that the government spends too little on scientific research grew from 34% to 41% between 2002 and 2006. Other kinds of federal spending (e.g. on the military or education), however, generate even stronger public support. There is a fair amount of public discontent with science generally. As reported in the NSF document, majorityof Americans believe that "scientific research these days doesn’t pay enough attention to the moral values of society," Public attitudes toward biology in particular are colored by a deep distrust by the American public in evolution, and to a lesser degree, doubts about climate change. Paying attention to the kind of science being funded can make a
Open Document