Make America Great? Fund science.

Wednesday, December 5th, 2018 at 6:03 PM

If I were a conspiracy theorist, I’d say that all fingers point to Trump. 

There has been three — not one, not two, but three major outbreaks of E. coli in romaine lettuce following Trump’s nearly 80 percent cut of the Center for Disease Control’s (CDC) budget early this year. And last year, Trump proposed a 31 percent cut of the Food and Drug Administration’s budget, however, that is still in talks. 

Besides E. coli, we also had a deadly flu strain in circulation during flu season this year; measles and whooping cough (two diseases that can be vaccinated against) had an uptick in cases this year, as well.

But I’m not a conspiracy theorist, and there is an obvious pattern in effect here: No money for scientific research equals the outbreak of disease. And the disinvestment of politicians in the funding of science has very little to do with Trump — this has been an issue for a while. 

According to the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB), the National Institutes for Health (NIH), which acts as one of the largest funders of scientific research, lost 22 percent of its capacity to fund research between 2003 and 2015. Between 2016-2018, Congress began to make up for nearly a decade of budget cuts by increasing funding of the NIH and CDC, however, this year’s budget sequestration, a process that the federal government goes through to set a limit on its spending, resulted in a near 80 percent cut of the CDC’s budget, is unlikely to help in mediating 10 years of almost non-existent funding (reword). For nearly a decade, the NIH couldn’t disseminate many grants for scientific research, and that means that students, faculty, physicians and institutions were not able to receive funding for the projects that they were working on. These projects could have been important in paving pathways for cures in cancers like Glioblastoma, or for Parkinson’s. 

I’ll be honest; it can be hard to see the immediate effects of these budget cuts on the general public. But, with science — and especially with medically related science — when the public does feel the impact it is often too late. Think about it. If an unknown strain of an illness gets loose, it’s going to take weeks, if not months of research to come up with a cure. In that time, hundreds of people could be seriously ill or deceased. 

Even more troubling is the rise of diseases like Ebola, Zika and MRSA, which cause epidemics around the world every year. The United States has been lucky to dodge any major outbreaks, however, if we don’t have the funding to keep those system working, or to update those systems, there could be a real possibility that serious epidemics like Ebola or Zika could cripple our population. 

And to bring it back to romaine lettuce, the cutting of funding could mean that food scares — with E. coli and Salmonella, could become more common. 

On a more local scale, the disinvestment of science research means that smaller public schools, like Edinboro for example, will often miss out on receiving money for research that students and faculty might want to work on because there are bigger research schools competing for the same grants. This is a shame, because research is one of the most important things that students of science can participate in to progress their careers in the field. 

If you look at the great civilizations of history, they all placed great importance on science; we might even say that science is one of the cornerstones of civilization. 

Cutting federal funding of science will not make us “great again.” We might just get sicker.  

Shayma Musa can be reached at voices.spectator@gmail.com.

View Our YouTube Channel
Edinboro TV
 
Find Us on Instagram