What the President’s Innovation and Technology Advisory Committee (PITAC) wants to know is
What are the critical infrastructures that only government can help provide that are needed to enable creation of new biotechnology, nanotechnology, and information technology products and innovations that will lead to new jobs and greater GDP?
One has to wonder what the point is of convening a committee of experts, only to have them ask the general public? But in these dark days of science budget cuts, the Simon Cowell business model is beginning to look attractive. While Andrew Maynard is tied up in I’m A Scientist Get Me Out Of Here, answering questions about his salary and sex life, it’s far too tame for us. He should be made to eat kangaroo anuses washed down with a beaker of foaming green liquid, while running around yelling “Ah-Ha” if we want to be innovative about science funding.
It seems that everyone wants to do public engagement these days, holding meetings, setting up web sites, convening multi stakeholder dialogues, but they have it all back to front. It’s not the scientists who desperately want to communicate, it’s Joe Bloggs who wants to be heard, and if he’s perfectly well prepared to blow a pound on voting on Big Brother/Britain’s Got Talent/American Idol/Strictly Come Dancing etc then I’m pretty sure he’d be willing to shell out again to give his opinion on nanotechnology, synthetic biology or any other -ology that I could think of.
Understanding anything about the subject isn’t a prerequisite for having an opinion, as PITAC seem to have demonstrated.
Just think how much extra research funding could be generated if scientists had to compete for research funding on live TV, with the audience voting by SMS or phone lines? 19 Entertainment, the company behind American Idol made $233 last year, and that would fund a lot of science. Imagine if EPSRC started doing it, we’d have nanotech labs and synchotrons on every street corner by the end of the decade.
So there’s the solution to the science budget. More public engagement, more wild hair, lots of foaming liquids, and no need to bother the hard pressed Government.