Most of us believe that the word research, particularly when funded by the government (as opposed to say, the research you did on Jennifer Lawrence’s leaked nude photos) is highly scientific and rigorous. You meet some professor, ask what he/she does, and they say, “I am the Alfred E Newman Professor of
Phys Ed at Twink-ee University. I do high level research into the physiognomy of pygmy goats. It consists of groundbreaking studies into how pygmy goats communicate with one another. I am currently working off of a $25M grant by the Department of Goatology, within the DOA.”
You, not understanding a word of that, but not wanting to appear an unlettered rube, nod sagely and respectfully, and forever after that believe you have been in the presence of intellectual genius. After all, he has a $25 million grant from an important sounding government agency, which comes complete with an acronym! He must be important and brilliant! That guy, is a SUPER GENIUS.
However, what that guy likely is, is a charlatan doing shoddy work and getting paid top dollar for it.
Check out this statement by the editor of The Lancet (publication considered an authority on scientific research;)
Richard Horton, the editor of The Lancet recently put it only slightly more mildly: “Much of the scientific literature, perhaps half, may simply be untrue.” Horton agrees with Ioannidis’ reasoning, blaming: “small sample sizes, tiny effects, invalid exploratory analyses, and flagrant conflicts of interest, together with an obsession for pursuing fashionable trends of dubious importance.” Horton laments: “Science has taken a turn towards darkness.”
You don’t believe me check it out for yourself:
So most scientists are basically full of shit. (But hey, at least many of them are Concerned!) There are some reports that something like 80% of all published research results have the truth level of a Nancy Pelosi speech. Eat pizza and drink beer to your hearts content, the scientist who says that this will kill you has the veracity of a Trump tweet, or the integrity of Harvey Weinstein auditioning actresses.
Now you think well OK the scientific community is one big Bernie Madoff faith invention factory. Do I really care? After all, I eat pizza and drink beer no matter what the beaker boys in the lab at Twink-ee U. have to say. Always have, always will. So let them publish rot and baloney, what does that mean to me? (As an aside, Bernie ripped off only $65 billion over 20 years, which our government manages to waste on useless research in just 3 years).
The answer, the reason you care, is that the Augean Stable of horse excrement is being paid out of your personal pockets. Or more accurately, adding to the national debt our grandchildren will be saddled with. And for those who despise leeches who mooch at the public trough, and enjoy luxurious lifestyles at our considerable expense, this is your opportunity to get outraged. And brothers and sisters, we are all getting ripped off and it’s time to get really PISSSED.
According to this article, the US Government spent $37 billion on basic research in 2015, meaning that the waste was $16.5-$29.6 BILLION. Lest you think this is peanuts compared to the amount we waste on say, writing off student loans to puppeteering majors, I like to point out that this amounts to $750 per tax payer. Understanding that the majority of Americans have less than $33.50 in their savings accounts, you can get the point that this is real money being spent with the fiscal prudence of a trophy wife at Tiffany’s.
The only good news in all of this is that our profligate government has dropped its share of this squandering to less than 50% of the total. Whew. Let some private companies waste billions, at least we aren’t on the hook for that. (Note, hilariously, this article laments the fact that our government has decreased its share of wasteful spending on research. I hope the author’s spouse has control of the checkbook).
There you have it everyone. Our brilliant government is pending $17-$30 Billion ANNUALLY on research that is total, complete malarky. But take heart. At least some PhD’s that have no obvious purpose on earth have vacation homes in the Hamptons. Not to worry, you can row a dingy past their mansions, and wave to your wasted dollars.