The U.S. Congress spends our money to support science? What kind of science? Marginal. How crucial to our welfare? Not much.
Here is a choice example.
Researchers at the College of Charleston, South Carolina used $682,000 to study how well shrimp perform on a treadmill. You can find a description of the study on the NSF’s website.
The researchers want to discover how “human-made marine stresses [are] affecting the marine life we need.”
Here is how the justification of the study, as culled from the original research grant application. The researchers
want to understand how crustaceans, and other marine organisms, respond to bacterial exposures because these animals live in a veritable soup of bacteria: every teaspoon of seawater contains more than one million bacteria. So if, for example, the resistance of crustaceans to bacterial infections were to be compromised by human-made stressors, the vulnerability of these organisms to illness and death would likely increase.
The research question I think the private sector ought to ask is whether the best use of taxpayers’ money is to study crabs on a treadmill. I don’t think the research should cost much. It’s called an election.
The trouble is, in election after election, the voters re-elect the people who support research like the project in South Carolina.
When voters don’t know or care, the spending continues. It is going to continue until the checks from Washington bounce.