You can tell when December is approaching in DC. The air is crisp, the squirrels are all a-twitter, and the Nobel Laureates come to town. Yesterday, the Embassy of Sweden hosted a panel discussion for the laureates right before they met with President Bush. The panel was right down the street from C&EN’s offices, so I decided to go and listen to what they had to say. Video after the jump.
At this year’s discussion, chemistry laureates Roger Tsien and Martin Chalfie were joined by economics winner Paul Krugman. The economy was tops on everybody’s mind, so Krugman fielded most of the questions, including one from Tsien.
But the economics of doing research was a recurring theme of the morning, as well. Chalfie and Tsien emphasized how they made space in their funding for what they considered basic research areas, even if the grant didn’t explicitly fund such exploration. “In my entire academic career, not once did I have funding for green fluorescent protein,” Chalfie said. “Funding isn’t a contract. I’m not blindly supposed to do exactly what I’ve written in a grant proposal, I’m supposed to pay attention to the world around my research.” Keeping abreast of the latest tools by going to meetings and lectures led to his work with GFP, he says.
Tsien also weighed in on what he called the “vagaries of funding” for basic research. While doing so, he managed to squeeze in a satirical dig at comments former Republican Vice-Presidential candidate Sarah Palin uttered on the campaign trail, characterizing fruit fly research in France as wasteful government spending. Watch a video of Tsien’s remarks below.
Photo and Video by Carmen Drahl/C&EN
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