Click the image at left to go to the story, in the Science section of the New York Times, about what seems a troubling trend. There is something unsettling about science being increasingly influenced by individuals’ private interests rather than society as a whole. It has nothing to do with their being billionaires, but with the fact that science historically has advanced along with civilizations, not along with private interests. Wendy Schmidt is not to blame, as far as we can tell from the story. She is pursuing her interests, and we have no objection to that. And she may lead science to a critical breakthrough. But with this type of approach are we on to something new, or headed down a dead end path scientifically with publicly funded science diminishing? This story raises questions but offers few answers. It is a starting point:
As government financing of basic research has fallen off precipitously, philanthropists have stepped in, setting priorities and drawing both gratitude and trepidation from scientists.