Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Research funding

Commenting on the Washington Post's piece on embryonic stem cell research in Missouri, Kevin Drum writes:
if you were a scientist, where would you rather be? UCLA or Stanford on the one hand, or someplace where the locals try to ban the teaching of evolution and think that biotech laboratories are symbols of moral degeneracy? Seems like an easy choice.
Yet somehow this basic observation is controversial in some circles.

Here's the deal. I have yet to meet a person who came to Kansas from a coastal metropolis and swore never to leave. I know lots of people who left Kansas for a coastal metropolis and never wanted to live anywhere else.

When people get used to the varieties of food, people and experiences available in a city of several million, the best BBQ in the world won't impress for long. It'll still be the best, but you'll want to head down to Chinatown, Little Italy, or maybe grab some borsht in a Russian neighborhood, and you'll be SOL.

There's plenty to be said for Kansas. Don't get me wrong. I just don't see a lot of people having any trouble picking Kansas over New York.

For Kansas to attract the intellectual elite – and that's what the biotech industry hires – you have to offer something serious. California, New Jersey, Maryland and Massachusetts all are moving toward funding for embryonic stem cell research. That's the competition.

While Missouri debates whether to allow embryonic stem cell research, and Kansas forbids the use of state funds for embryonic stem cell research, the states where people from around the world want to live are giving out money to attract them.

Kansas is great, but it's an acquired taste. It won't attract business or people without sweetening the pot, and anti-science activism in the legislature and school board scares people away.

Update: A bunch of people in the comments seem to think I'm insulting Kansas or something. All I'm saying is that the policy of the State of Kansas is to attract certain types of business, businesses which are currently concentrated in urban areas. I'm commenting on how certain other government policies will be seen by the people the State wants to attract. This isn't about my personal opinion of Kansas.

The attitude that anyone who doesn't like Kansas exactly the way it is should just fuck off is so idiotically close-minded and short-sighted that you'd need an optometrist and a psychiatrist just to untangle the mess. Kansas wants to increase the tax base, and allocated $350 million to attract business to change things. That means attracting the best people to do the best work. If you insult science and forbid cutting edge research, you won't attract cutting-edge scientists.

None of that is controversial, and all of it is obvious to anyone who isn't more interested in tilting at windmills than finding real solutions.

Get over your inferiority complex about this state and think about real solutions.