Guest laugh by David Middleton
The laugh is the fact that an article demonstrating the nonessential nature of government scientists, is titled “The Shutdown Shows Just How Vital Government Scientists Are”…
ERIC NIILER SCIENCE 01.08.19
THE SHUTDOWN SHOWS JUST HOW VITAL GOVERNMENT SCIENTISTS ARE
INSTEAD OF FIGURING out how many Pacific hake fishermen can catch sustainably, as his job demands, scientist Ian Taylor is at home with his four-month old daughter, biding his time through the partial government shutdown.
Some federal science agencies are open, such as the National Institutes for Health and the Department of Energy, since their appropriations bills were already signed by Trump. Others, such as NASA, are continuing to operate key programs such as the International Space Station, although 95 percent of its 15,000 workers were sent home on Dec. 22.
The shutdown has led to a hodgepodge of federal science-based activity across the country. A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket is sitting on a launch pad at Cape Canaveral ready for a planned launch on Jan. 17, but without NASA personnel to oversee testing, that liftoff will be delayed. Crews that fly over the Atlantic to check on endangered Atlantic right whales and send those positions to commercial ships are still working, but they aren’t being paid.
Weather forecasters are working during the shutdown, but hundreds of scientists from NOAA and the National Weather Service have been banned from attending the annual American Meteorological Society meeting this week in Phoenix.
The Environmental Protection Agency furloughed about 14,000 of its employees, leaving just 753 “essential” workers on the job.
Leslie Rissler, an evolutionary biologist and program director at the NSF, tweeted last week that she had applied for unemployment benefits.
So… NASA and the EPA can maintain essential operations with only 5% of their workforce, evolutionary biologists are nonessential drains on the taxpayers, NOAA meteorologists can’t attend the American Meteorological Society convention on the taxpayers’ dime… Maybe I’m just a bit jaded, but how does the word “vital” fit in here? Can you think of a better example of a nonessential government employee than an evolutionary biologist?
Is anyone else laughing at all of the blather about government scientists not being able to attend conventions? I call them conventions as do most people I know, even though the official title is usually “conference and exposition.” If I had a dollar for every time I couldn’t attend the AAPG, SEG or GCAGS* convention because my employer was tightening their belt, I’d have a lot of dollars. For that matter, I’ve even become proactive in belt-tightening… The only times I ever request to attend AAPG, SEG or GCAGS conventions are when they are in Dallas or Houston (where I can keep the costs pretty-well limited to the registration fee). Having survived multiple oil price crashes, I’ve learned that controlling costs enables companies (and paychecks) to survive downturns and to be more profitable during “booms”. I don’t recall any geologists complaining about not being able to attend the 2016 AAPG convention in Calgary because their companies were cutting costs due to the collapse in oil prices. Most of them probably felt like I did: Thankful to still have a job… if they still had jobs.
Regarding the possible delay in the launch of the privately owned SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, the key takeaway is that the “privatization” of spaceflight is still mostly a buzzword. If “
Paul Allen, Larry Page, Eric E. Schmidt, Ram Shriram, Charles Simony, Ross Perot, Jr., Jeff Bezos, Richard Branson, Elon Musk, and Robert Bigelow” want to privatize spaceflight, maybe they might think about building their own launch facilities… with their own money. Or, maybe the US government should privatize NASA’s space operations.
AAPG: American Association of Petroleum Geologists
SEG: Society of Exploration Geophysicists
GCAGS: Gulf Coast Association of Geological Societies