Misappropriation of resources for high cost research projects

Other Names:
Inappropriate use of resources for fundamental sciences
Exaggerated benefits of scientific megaprojects
Scientific mega-projects
The extremely high cost of some forms of fundamental research results in many less costly research projects, often of greater immediate practical relevance, being deprived of funds. When such projects are first proposed the costs are usually deliberately underestimated in order to facilitate their approval. Subsequent escalation of the costs, ensures a further drain on scarce resources for less prestigious projects.
Major projects include: the Hubble space telescope, $2 billion; the superconducting super collider, $8 billion; the human genome project, $3 billion; the improved stratospheric and mesospheric sounder, £8 million. Space projects in general have been considered a questionable allocation of resources. It has been estimated that completion of big science projects in the 1990s will cost $65 billion, which could be better used for developing new technologies of commercial significance.

In 1990 the Pope opened a $150 million basilica in the home-town of the president of the Ivory Coast. It was built at a time when the government introduced a widespread austerity programme and with 70% of the population living in abject poverty.

Too many big science projects were approved uncritically in the 1980s, with no apparent concern for their impact on small science through which technical advances are made.
Counter Claim:
The distinction between "big science" and "small science" does disservice to informed debate on the choices that must be made concerning the future of science. It misrepresents the nature of scientific inquiry. Critics group projects of quite different nature and purpose whose only common feature is their expense. Each is however expected to have quite profound implications for the advancement of knowledge in particular domains. The claim that the more grandiose the project the less rigorous its review is also a hollow argument. Such projects are subject to repeated cost, management and status reviews. Linking financial support to short-term goals is a sure prescription for locking in the past and jeopardizing the future. Science on any scale shares in the quest for the understanding of nature.
Related Problems:
Reward biased research
Problem Type:
F: Fuzzy exceptional problems
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Date of last update
01.01.2000 – 00:00 CET