Thursday, October 13, 2022

Killing Science

Our decades-long love affair with diversity quotas has largely ignored science, technology, engineering and math. In today’s universities, STEM departments are the only ones that still value achievement over ideology.

Not for very long, thanks to the Biden administration. Apparently, the Energy Department is a leading purveyor of funds to university science programs and private laboratories. So far, so good. Physicist Lawrence Krauss reports for the Wall Street Journal:

… the Energy Department’s Office of Science, … gives money to university programs throughout the country and oversees the 10 major national laboratories, from Livermore to Los Alamos.

Its brief includes energy and research into fundamental questions: the structure of matter, the nature of the cosmos, high-energy and nuclear physics with large accelerators, materials physics with X-ray synchrotrons, fusion and advanced scientific computers. And now, social justice.

Just in case you were feeling optimistic about American scientific research, the Energy Department has offered new guidelines for applicants… and they must include statements about diversity and inclusion. One remarks, because no one else seems to care, that most of the main researchers in academic science are Asian. Many of them come from China. We have already seen a brain drain, with some of those people moving back to China. This idiotic directive will surely accelerate the process.

Keep in mind that when senior biomedical researcher David Sabatini lost his lab at MIT, for having indulged in a consensual relationship with a woman who was working in the lab, he became radioactive in America. One recalls that countries like Russia, China and the United Arab Emirates have offered him sanctuary!

Starting in fiscal 2023, which began Oct. 1, every proposal responding to a solicitation from the Office of Science is required to include a PIER plan, which stands for Promoting Inclusive and Equitable Research, to “describe the activities and strategies of the applicant to promote equity and inclusion as an intrinsic element to advancing scientific excellence.” In the words of the announcement, “The complexity and detail of a PIER Plan is expected to increase with the size of the research team and the number of personnel to be supported.”

So, Krauss dug up his last proposal and tried to see whether it would fulfill the new criteria:

When I read this new requirement, I went back to the last grant proposal from our group—which involved exploring gravitational waves, the early universe, Higgs boson physics, neutrino cosmology, dark-matter detection, supersymmetry and black-hole physics. What does any of this have to do with diversity and inclusion? Nothing.

It’s called killing science:

Are we at a point where the heart of the nation’s scientific research enterprise is to be held hostage to ideology? Will the U.S. government refuse to fund major national-laboratory initiatives to explore forefront fundamental and applied science because scientists show insufficient zeal for fashionable causes?

And, of course, the requirements also apply to professional conferences:

And the new initiative doesn’t stop with research. Professional conferences bring scientists together to discuss important science issues. No longer. Now conference organizers will have to spend the bulk of their effort meeting bureaucratic requirements on diversity and “conduct.”

“Beginning in FY 2023,” the announcement states, “proposals requesting funding to support a conference will require that the host organization of the conference have an established code of conduct or policy in place that addresses discrimination, harassment, bullying, and other exclusionary practices. . . . 

Applicants will also be required to submit a recruitment and accessibility plan for speakers and attendees. This plan will need to include discussion of the recruitment of individuals from groups historically minoritized in the research community.” I’ve served on numerous national-conference organizing committees over the years, and attendees at these conferences never raised the issue of discrimination, harassment, bullying or exclusionary practices.

Is this a blow against American science and against American competitiveness? Or will some politician come along and kill this nonsense?


David Foster said...

Absolutely certain that the more Democrats hold office, the much worse this sort of thing will become. Yeah, Republicans don't always stand against it as strongly as they should, but Dems are much worse.

There are too many people saying that this election doesn't matter because Republicans just as bad.

They are wrong, and these attitudes may wind up destroying any chance for recovery and renewal.

ErisGuy said...

I’ve read of these concerns somewhere before. Oh, yeah:

The prospect of domination of the nation's scholars by Federal employment, project allocations, and the power of money is ever present and is gravely to be regarded.

Yet, in holding scientific research and discovery in respect, as we should, we must also be alert to the equal and opposite danger that public policy could itself become the captive of a scientific-technological elite.

It seems both horns have happened simultaneously.