American science and the budget crisis

Eugenie Samuel Reich speculates about the effect on US science should the debt ceiling not be raised by 2 August 2011:

Republicans have made it clear that they will not cut defence spending, and Democrats are keen to protect social security and health-care programmes such as Medicare and Medicaid. Thus, the cuts are likely to fall on the roughly $600-billion discretionary, domestic budget, which includes funding for scientific agencies including the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the Department of Energy’s Office of Science. A reduction of $100 billion, applied across the board, would result in a 17% cut to such agencies.

Excellent discussion of best- and worst-case scenarios and their effect on science, ‘an investment in future prosperity’.

Many adults cannot name a scientist

Dimitri-IvanovskyUSA Today’s Snapshot for 29 June was a survey in which 1000 adults were asked to name a famous scientist. Here are the results:

47% named Albert Einstein
23% could not name anyone
6% named Marie Curie
4% named Louis Pasteur
4% named Thomas Edison

The survey was conducted by L’Oreal, but the methods were not revealed. Therefore it is not possible to determine if the results can be extended to the adult population in general. Nevertheless, the poor showing on naming a famous scientist is an indictment of the science education of those who participated in the survey.

I’m interested in how the readers of virology blog would respond to the question, ‘Name a scientist’ – it doesn’t have to be a famous scientist, and it should not be a relative, or the author of virology blog. Don’t look up someone in a book or online – I’m interested in who you would think of spontaneously. Post your answer – just one scientist – in the comments section, or send it to I’ll reveal the results here in a few weeks.

In attempting to determine how the L’Oreal survey was conducted, I learned about the L’Oreal-UNESCO For Women in Science Program, an effort to celebrate women who have dedicated their careers to scientific research, and to encourage emerging talent to pursue scientific discoveries. It’s a commendable program, and I do hope they impress upon the recipients of these awards the need to educate the public about their work.