Managing science funding

Inside Higher Ed has a short article on how the additions to the NIH and NSF budgets in the stimulus pose a challenge for program administrators:

One need only look back to the aftermath of the doubling of the NIH budget, Cicerone said, when we “got into a pickle now where they’re oversubscribed [in terms of demand for grants] now that we’re back to level funding.” The agency arguably financed too many projects that required longterm funds to sustain, and many universities built up their research programs in ways that put them in a bind when the flow of funds slowed.

Also worth looking at is a book review of How Professors Think: Inside the Curious World of Academic Judgment by Michèle Lamont.


Green trucks at the LA port

As a great example of how state investment can really spur the development of better technology, take a look at this story from Los Angeles:

On Tuesday, the first of 25 heavy-duty all-electric trucks rolled off a new Los Angeles assembly line. All are slated to work at the Port of Los Angeles or to make short hauls to and from the harbor… Balqon Chief Executive Balwinder Samra received $527,000 from the L.A. port and the air board to fund development of the electric truck. As part of the deal, Samra moved his company from Orange County to Harbor City, near the port, and he will pay a royalty of $1,000 to the port and the air board for every truck he sells that isn’t used at the port. “We had made equipment for trucks and buses before, but we could never afford to build a whole truck before this,” Samra said. “Now, we’ve proven we can do it.”

The city had the money, invested it, and although they aren’t getting the kind of return that a private investor would ask for, I doubt this technology would have gotten off the ground otherwise. Some more details on the specs are available. The company is run by a desi! Sepia Mutiny should do an interview or something.