Wednesday, February 24, 2010

How cheap do you think I am?

I was talking with some people last night about my research and from their reaction to the news that I study climate change it was pretty clear they think global warming is a vast conspiracy perpetuated by the scientific community on society at large. I know there's no conspiracy--there's no way in ache-ee-double-hockey-sticks the cantankerous, disagreeable, argumentative bunch of scientists I know would go in for that. But it got me thinking, exactly what would motivate scientists to perpetuate fraudulent science? Most claims I've heard revolve around grant money, which sounds almost plausible when you consider the 6 billion dollar budget of NSF. That's got to be enough to pay all of us off, right?

Okay, so 6 billion (6x10^9) and we divide it amongst the approximately 50,000 (5x10^4) scientists who work in education.

6x10^9/5x10^5 = 1.2x10^4

or about $120,000. That's before considering that about 1/3 of the money NSF pays out in grants goes to universities (called overhead). Of course, not all of the 50,000 scientists working at universities are working on global warming, nor is all of NSF's budget going to studying climate change. So this is just a back of the envelope calculation (as it's meant to be). But it does show just how little money there really is floating around for science in general and begs the question, just how cheap do you think I am that I would keep quiet about a vast global conspiracy for a measly 120K a year?

1 comment:

  1. For the back of a postage stamp calculation I think there is quite a bit of substance here.

    It underscores that most of the researchers I know, in whatever field, pursue their work because they love what they do.