Money and politics go together like sodium and chloride--an important element (in the non-chemical sense of the term) of life that can also be corrosive and deadly. The third question in's list of top 14 science questions that President Barack Obama and presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney should address this election year has to do with federal funding of scientific research. Unlike climate change, where there is a scientific consensus that warming is happening and that humans are at fault, there can be no scientific answer, I would argue, to the question "Should scientific research be funded with public moneys or private or some mix of both?"

Still, given science's role in fueling the economy, I think it makes sense to explore the funding issue more deeply.

3. Research and the Future. Federally funded research has helped to produce America’s major postwar economies and to ensure our national security, but today the UK, Singapore, China, and Korea are making competitive investments in research. Given that the next Congress will face spending constraints, what priority would you give to investment in research in your upcoming budgets?

A few facts to get the conversation started . . .

  1. The federal budget for Fiscal Year 2013, which starts in October, has still not been decided, although Congressional leaders announced on July 31 that they had reached a tentative deal to keep the government open through a continuing resolution.
  2. Total US government spending through July 2012 is expected to be $2.975 trillion dollars, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Total receipts as of that date were $2 trillion, giving a deficit of $975 billion.
  3. The 2013 budget for the National Institutes of Health, the premiere source for federal funding of medical research, may be somewhere just under $31 billion.
  4. NASA has asked for $17.7 billion for 2013.
  5. The National Science Foundation has asked for $7.373 billion for 2013.

I look forward to your comments.

Update (Sept. 5, 2012): Click to see the answers to the top 14 science questions from Gov. Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama.

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