In a Trump administration, scientists must be strong-willed

Funding in the future shouldn’t scare scientists.

Anant Naik

When Galileo proposed an idea on the astronomical position of the earth that contradicted the predominant view by the Roman Catholic Church, he faced trial and house arrest. His ideas were viciously condemned and rejected. But our modern understanding of the Earth and sun is largely founded on many of his scientific observations.

Scientific understanding was oppressed during Galileo’s life. The Church fought a vicious political fight against views that contradicted the geocentric philosophy of the universe. Still, science emerged victorious centuries later.

With today’s political climate, it’s easy to become skeptical that scientific progress will continue. With impending issues such as catastrophic climate disruptions and global health crises that necessitate funding, the lack of belief in the fundamental, scientific truths of climate change and vaccines’ efficacy is a reasonable source of worry and contempt. And now those doubts are coming from the highest office of our country. In the next few years, science may be challenged, but it’s important for the scientific community to remain even-keeled.

Scientific innovation is driven by need. The need for progress drives our creative minds to fill the vacuum.

Money and policy drive research. While it will be challenging to gain appropriate funding for many labs in a Trump administration, I think our available resources will be directed toward projects that are most impactful. And the scientific community will rise to the challenge.

In my own reading of many grants from the National Institute of Health, among others, many scientists stretch the potential impact of their research. This is the unfortunate byproduct of a “publish-or-perish” era of research. Either a scientist gets funding and continues to publish work for their research, or they lose their job. The lack of funding in important areas will hopefully facilitate a transition away from this mentality.

One topic I have written about frequently is the lack of focus in research. Many projects around the country in the field of medical devices, for instance, create devices that are unreasonably expensive. The unsustainability of those efforts must be considered. Projects should have a direct impact on patient care rather than promote research on a topic simply “because it’s cool.”

It’s important for scientists not to lose hope. Science is the quest for the truth. Truth doesn’t change with decreased funding. It might take time, but the truth will always emerge victorious.