Responsible for some of the most revolutionary breakthroughs in everything from medicine to robotics, scientists have long been able to make advancements under any circumstances. Through war and peace, prosperity and depression, scientists across a plethora of fields use a combination of intellect and resources to achieve breakthrough advancements.
Despite this persistence, the amount of resources allocated by both the private sector and governments alike affects how quickly these breakthroughs occur. An increasing number of researchers have pointed to changes in government policy that are restricting their access to capital. Considering these restrictions, it is a worthwhile question to ask whether scientists are receiving the funding and financing necessary for optimal progress.
Ingenuity, Even Under Tough Conditions
Regardless of any funding issues, scientists and researchers have proven an ability to innovate even under less than optimistic circumstances. The ability to find new uses and applications in even the simplest of situations remains one of the most useful qualities of scientists.
Take for instance a recent report from Capital Wired, which highlighted the discovery by two teams of a process that converts simple sugar and yeast into morphine. A remarkable discovery that mirrors countless advancements made by scientists throughout the ages, working with simple, low-budget materials.
The Strain of Money (Some Strings Attached)
While scientists and researchers remain innovative even with little to no outside funding, many fields of study require a substantial amount of investment. Without this cash infusion, scientists report, research grinds to a halt.
According to Vox, one of the biggest limiting factors in financing relates to how the money must be used. Not only are scientists and researchers being pushed into producing an increasing number of papers (which can distract from actual study), but most grants only provide a short-term benefit. This means that most researchers steer clear of pursuing research that requires a long-term focus.
Combined with the fact that federal funding for scientific research has remained steady while the number of scientists and researchers continues to grow, this has led to a relative shortage of money for more traditional scientific pursuits.
The Ultimate Verdict
While bigger institutions nevertheless have access to capital and various forms of private financing, most researchers rely heavily on public funds to pursue scientific endeavours. Every year, the US federal government spends about $7 billion through the National Science Foundation on various scientific grants. While this sounds like a lot of money, it is hardly suitable for revolutionary research.
In fact, the average grant across many scientific fields breaks down to around $100,000 per year. As the number of scientists continues to grow and the amount of money remains relatively unchanged, scientists are forced to make do with less.
Ultimately, it can hardly be argued that the average scientist or researcher has ample access to publicly financed loans or grants. While there are many lenders willing to provide financial assistance to larger institutions for the purposes of research and development, standard scientific pursuits are slowly being stifled by a lack of resources – and excessive bureaucracy attached to the resources that are available.