THE NERD PATROL GETS RICH. This isn't necessarily surprising, but it's nice nonetheless. A recent study analyzing government funding for scientific research found higher returns than previously thought, with grateful scientists filing patents and founding start-ups at a surprisingly rapid clip. That's instructive, as the primary driver of this bit of economic growth is the National Institute of Heath, which has seen its funding stagnate during the Bush era, in stark contrast to the 250 percent increase of the Clinton years.
But funding for scientific research really shouldn't be a partisan issue. These grants don't interfere with the market so much as kickstart it: 70 percent of scientists filed their patents through their university's technology transfer office (the arm that commercializes university research). The rest went the entrepreneurial route, resulting in a full quarter of scientists who've received patents reporting that they've founded businesses. The taxpayer dollars fund basic research that may or may not have commercial application, but it turns out that the scientists themselves are making sure their findings leap from dry journal to the marketplace -- and a good thing, too. For all the noise Bush made about training young scientists during his State of the Union address, you'd think supporting the eggheads we've already got would be a bit more of a priority for his administration.
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