When Average Isn't Good Enough

When Average Isnt Good Enough
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us scienceThe December issue of Wired magazine contained a short article and data report on where the U.S. stands relative to other nations in spending on research and development, number of researchers per 1,000 people, total number of Ph.D.s., and number of published scientific papers by origin. The U.S. consistently falls at or below average by these measures, particularly when it comes to research spending, where China is spending more than twice as much on science as a percentage of gross domestic product (6% of GDP) than the U.S. (2.5% of GDP). Of course, this comparison doesn't consider private sector spending in the U.S. Ironically, the Wired article by Greta Lorge cites the breakthrough research on cloning of human embryos by South Korean scientists as evidence that the U.S. has lost its lead in biotech. But as the world learned last month, the stem cell research has been found to be fraudulent, and the lead South Korean scientist, Dr. Woo Suk Hwang, admitted to fabricating evidence, casting doubt on his entire body of work. The scandal simply demonstrates how much pressure is on scientists and nations to be first in the science race. Perhaps the more important question isn't why is the U.S. falling behind, but why don't Americans seem to care? In science, it only matters who is first with a scientific breakthrough. Not only are there no awards for Number Two, but top scientific journals won't publish articles by also-rans unless they add something new to the story. Even then, there is little glory in merely adding another decimal point.
Submitted by elementlist on Jan 02, 2006
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