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July 12, 2011 | Michael S. Lubell
Last fall, the National Science Board effectively killed the National Science Foundation’s support for the Deep Underground Science Experimental Laboratory (DUSEL) planned for the defunct Barrick gold mine in South Dakota and considered by many scientists to be critical for cutting-edge research in high-energy and nuclear physics. This week, the House of Representatives passed the Energy and Water Development Appropriations bill with language that would effectively prohibit the U.S. Department of Energy from paying for DUSEL.
And in the coming weeks, the House is poised to zero out NASA funding for the James Webb Space Telescope, which the National Academy of Sciences has ranked as the most important astronomy research project for this decade. The three actions taken together suggest that as a nation we no longer have the will to support big science, regardless of the potential payoff. If so, are we content to let the rest of the world take over the lead?