This weekend, Jodi and I traveled to Wisconsin to celebrate the 3rd birthday of our twin nephews. Over a delicious bowl of guacamole, I engaged in a conversation with a couple who were friends with my sister-in-law (the mother of the twins). We quickly came to the recent Republican plan to cut the Federal budget across the board, including the unique national agencies that spend on basic research in science. Quick and important fact: this conversation was held over a delicious bowl of homemade guacamole, in a kitchen in Franklin, WI, a town firmly in the district of Paul Ryan (R-WI). Congressman Ryan is a leading Republican in the fight to shrink the Federal budget.
From my previous posts in this blog, you pretty much should know my feelings about the importance of Federal investment in basic research. However, I was the one stunned into silence as my sister-in-law’s friend said, “It’s outrageous that at a time when the U.S. wants to maintain scientific leadership it is trying to cut basic research from the Federal budget. There are no companies that want to support this kind of research anymore. There are no more Bell Labs. You never know what this research is going to bring, and you never do it for the reasons that it’s useful later.” That’s a paraphrase, but these are all things he told me over the course of many minutes. And I didn’t once have to get on the soapbox. He dominated the conversation, and I was so happy.
It felt good to be the scientist standing in the kitchen, munching on chips and guacamole, stunned into silence by the words of a very passionate citizen with a deep interest in science.