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Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Big Brain politics

There are reasons to be skeptical of Big Brain projects, even if you're generally an enthusiast of neuroscience or, for that matter, science overall. John Horgan adds an addendum to his argument that such projects are premature. Others raise similar concerns. In short, the Big Brain approach runs a risk of throwing centralized money at questions that are still ill-defined, rather than fostering creative thinking and multiple paths of investigation.

Being a science-minded Republican has been a source of frustration in recent years, as I have discussed amply on this blog and elsewhere. But a healthy desire to reassert the value and importance of science in conservative/GOP circles ought not to translate into quick acceptance of whatever high-minded, expensive Big Science project shows up on the D.C. agenda. Some areas of science, and some moments in science, are much better-suited than others to the running-the-moon approach.

2 comments:

Ray Haupt said...

I have been hearing conflicting reports on this project in that some accounts cite an expense of $100 million and others several billion.

Nonetheless I can not say that I am an enthusiast for so large a science project while the government is running huge deficits and more importantly to me in this case, the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) spends about $127 million per year for mainly meaningless research that is poorly reported.

I certainly am not against brain mapping but to me the issue would be far more palatable if pseudo-science at NCCAM were dropped. If the $100 million reports are correct then good research could replace bad and $27 million returned to the taxpayers. I sadly suspect that many researchers will lobby for both projects.

Kenneth Silber said...

Hello Ray. Thanks for the comment, now showing belatedly; spam filter was acting up again.