Trump releases his 100 days plan- What for Science?

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Electing Donald Trump as the 45th American President will bring about scads of policy reforms, even faster than the people realize. Starting from freezing the employee recruitments to the scrapping of Obamacare initiatives are all on the list! In addition, the breakneck statements and views of Donald Trump on various scientific facts have also sparked strong reactions among academics. However, the term “Science” has turned out to be a jargon for the Republicans and has found no special mention in the 100 days plan. However, we will have a bird’s eye view on the Trump’s blueprint that he would gift the Americans and the world community this New Year, and figure out if the science facts have been addressed to.

Trump – Throwing on off Policy fetters
Trump’s hard-line positions on immigration — including his commitment towards barring Muslims or terror-prone nationals from entering the US, a plan for wall building across the Mexico borders, imbibing visa restrictions, prioritizing American workers, and the termination of job programs for foreign youths, have surely perturbed the research advocates. Such decisions could sidetrack many talented international students or researchers from studying or working at US institutions. The future of foreign research scholars in the USA could be jeopardized due to such visa restrictions.

Science Facts vs. Trump’s Contradiction- Will it affect R&D funding?
The US has been a major investor of federal dollars in the field of R&D. “The entire business of the US academic biomedical research enterprise is based on federal dollars. Without that, it would collapse,” says Ethan Weiss, an associate professor, University of California. Trump’s shockingly ignorant views on vaccination for children with autism, and calling climate change a hoax and data to be unrealistic, pulling out US (the second most carbon generator) from the Paris climate change submit), curtailing the funds to UN for supporting climate change initiatives, and calling NASA as a logistics agency, have surely put him under the scanner of the intellectuals.
As per the statement released in September, by Donald Trump, he says that “there are increasing demands to curtail spending and to balance the federal budget; we must make the commitment to invest in science, engineering, healthcare and other areas that will make the lives of Americans better, safer and more prosperous.” In an interview by sciencedebate.org, Trump added that “scientific advances do require long-term investment.” In spite of such speculations, the fate of R&D industry is too early to predict. However, before the commencement of 2017, the present US Congress Govt. could approve spending bills before Christmas. These bills will raise the National Institute of Health funding as well as the NSF budget. During the first year of Trump’s presidency, the public funding will be secured.

Uncertain change in the climate
Trump’s election could factor into climate negotiations and be a setback for the upcoming climate change meets. When the world is thinking of implementing Paris agreement, the exit of the US from the Paris summit can be an unfortunate development and the pledge of 800 million USD as the annual contribution to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change may cease. However, legally Trump would not be able to sign off the Summit within his four years tenure.

Donald trump on Healthcare reforms
The Affordable Care Act, an initiative by Obama, which is in its current incarnation, won’t survive if Trump makes good on his campaign promises. By this logic, the funds linked to birth control programs would fade away, though not immediately. Trump may defund Obamacare and associated programs like state grant for medical care. A Trumpian shift to insurance premium deductions and insurance plans sales and the opening of tax-free Health Savings Accounts may not remedy the ultimate problem of high-cost health care services in the US.

Tech Boost and Trump
The Silicon Valley may be benefitted by the manufacturing revival initiative by Trump’s govt. “There are several things that a Trump administration could do that would be beneficial to tech,” says Rob Atkinson, president of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation. The export industry will flourish over the import, which will be part and parcel of the shifting away from the traditional start-up model and the adjusted tax and trade policy.

We know very little
The research policies and development across a wide spectrum in the US political scenario are still up in the air and have kept the scientific community optimistic (though cautiously). The outcomes of Trump’s immigration policies are also not clear. This is considered as the central pillar of his campaign, which might or might not affect research. Leighton Ku, a professor at George Washington University, said that “it’s likely that the kinds of highly-skilled scientists who immigrate to the US for school or work would still be welcome. But will they want to come?” This is a billion dollar question that still remains unanswered.

Use of passive voice in scientific writing

While writing research papers, scientists, researchers, or scholars are faced with the challenge of sentence construction. Most grammar perfectionists advise the use of active rather than passive voice while writing. The “voice” refers to the relationship of the subject with the object and the verb in a sentence. When the emphasis is on the subject, the sentence is in the active voice; when the emphasis is on the object, the sentence is said to be in the passive voice.

First, passive constructions are functional when the agent or the subject is unknown, or when the agent is obvious or unnecessary. For example, the sentence, ‘Equipment was damaged during the experiment’ can be composed without referring to the person behind the action.

Occasionally, passive constructions also help evade responsibility. For example, the sentence, ‘The judgment was taken for this case’ can be written without citing who made the decision. This construction focuses on the investigation only, i.e. on the object of the sentence and not on the investigator or the agent of the sentence.

Alternatively, if we choose the active voice to portray the investigator and the investigation of a research, it would become monotonous and might make the content dreary.

Second, the passive voice allows one to convey a notion of objectivity. Thus we can say, ‘the experiment was completed, and the data was analyzed’ rather than ‘I completed the experiment, and I analyzed the data.’ This concept of reflecting objectivity in scientific writing might be the reason for scientists to settle on the passive and not the active voice and first-person pronouns.

Finally, passive constructions sometimes reduce the clarity of a sentence. This is obviously a negative aspect, yet it is apt for writing where researchers or scientific writers are unsure of their thoughts and the medium to express them. Currently, usage of the passive voice has become a trend in scientific writing where writers often modify their active sentences to passive ones.

The passive voice is especially useful in technical and scientific writing. It reduces the word count of sentences in comparison with those in the active voice, and sometimes contributes to a concise piece of writing.

While recognizing the value of the passive voice, it is advisable to balance the usage of the active voice and the passive voice in your writing. While a rigorous use of the active voice often makes sentences arduous and complex, it is also equally true that an overuse of the passive voice might make the writing just as difficult to comprehend.

Scientists as Entrepreneurs: Recognizing their potential and commercializing the passion for science

Science and business, many of us thinks do not fit together and some even refers it as a huge culture clash. We imagine a scientist to be working in the lab with test tubes or operating some instruments! But yes, these days as I mentioned in my earlier post, they are coming out of their comfort zone and exploring careers outside academia. And why should not they? We saw entrepreneur legends like Richard and Maurice McDonald or Steve Jobs who do not hold a college degree but established the businesses, now even kids are familiar with.With a PhD, one has the capability to think independently and differently. Well, without getting into the controversy of the degrees one possesses, the point here is any individual with inherent self-confidence and willingness to take risks has a chance of becoming a successful entrepreneur. Till decades ago, scientists generated an idea, executed the research, and disseminated their results largely through publications or patents. Many scientists essentially comprehend that their discoveries could translate into important, very profitable entrepreneurial enterprises but actually never dared to take risks. But now that paradigm has shifted. Today, young researchers and scientists are recognizing their passion and taking their work beyond publications and patents and commercializing resulting technologies. But simply making a discovery or patenting an invention or a technique is not only the prerequisite for a start-up company. Bringing an idea or invention to commercialization and establishing a successful company requires altogether a different set of skills and knowledge than doing the actual science.

Government support for science entrepreneurs:

To help scientists get the necessary skills, National Science Foundation Innovation Corps (USA), American Chemical Society (USA), National Science & Technology Entrepreneurship Development, Technology Business Incubator supported by Department of Science and Technology (India), Department of Biotechnology (India), entrepreneur centers within many business schools and other groups are stepping up with financial aid and training courses and other resources. Plenty of online resources and websites “The Silicon Alley Entrepreneurs Club (SAEC)”, Kauffman Foundation, American Chemical Society initiative called “Entrepreneurial Resources Center” are headed and maintained by successful scientists turn entrepreneurs to provide support to budding entrepreneurs. Similarly, government and universities are encouraging scientists and researchers in academic settings to take up initiatives to sell what their mind thinks are innovative or they discover something in the lab for that matter. But, before scientists can take advantage of the government assistance, it is important that they critically assess their personal goals and the state of their innovation or technology they intent to market.

Challenges of scientists turning entrepreneurs:

Scientists trained in laboratories typically have a passion for science and not business. Decision of a scientist turning an entrepreneur requires acquiring new skills and taking risks for a significant transition into a new career path. Increased time demands, finding the right people to partner with in the start-up, worrying about venture capital, and giving up absolute control and ownership of the technology are few limitations which scientists aren’t so comfortable with.

Before starting anything, scientists need to ask a core set of questions about what they want to commercialize: Is there a growing market need? If yes, does the technology provide the solution to that need? Does anyone else have a better cost-effective solution? And finally, can enough capital be generated to cover the cost of bringing the technology to market and appealing the investors to invest?

Beyond these market-based limitations, scientists need to know a series of reality-check questions. How close is their technology successful in reaching market? If one still have a lot of unanswered questions and research to do, it is better to stay in the lab and wait a little more to achieve that confidence. Scientists also need to mull over whether they have a rational plan in place to effectively commercialize their idea or technology and how much it is going to cost! Addressing these questions is even more complicated for therapeutic innovations in life sciences or medical research because of the regulatory hurdles (Clearing clinical trials and other ethical issues) which needs to be well thought-out. And, perhaps most importantly, scientists must appraise if they have a perfect team in place with all the expertise needed to take the technology successfully to market. Explicitly, scientists will need to associate with business and legal professionals to launch the ambitious start-up. And last but not the least; the route to venture capital should be the prime thing, scientists really need to have in place. Good luck!