Huffington Post is reporting today that NPR’s “Science Friday” is in trouble. The show’s host, Ira Flatow, told HuffPo’s Jim Fruchterman the situation:
We at SciFri are facing severe financial difficulties, i.e. raising money. NSF [National Science Foundation] has turned us down for continuing funding, saying they love what we do, we are sorely needed, but it’s not their job to fund us. At the same time, NPR has said the same thing, telling us that if we want to stay on the air, etc, we now have to raise all our own money. Despite what listeners may think, NPR only gives us about 10 percent of our funding.
Apparently NSF was funding the bulk of “Science Friday”‘s production costs, and have now decided to pull their funding.
Yet, “Science Friday” is one of NPR’s most popular radio shows. For two hours on Friday afternoons, scientists are invited to talk about cutting-edge research in accessible layman’s terms. In so doing, they perform the critical work too often ignored in academic research: disseminating the information that scientists uncover so that it can better help the public good. Further, a lot of scientists listen to “Science Friday”, which has helped spark ideas for their own research.
NSF, unlike the NIH, has always been scientists’ go-to source of funding for basic science and research, because their mission is entirely and exclusively to “promote the progress of science“. (By contrast, the NIH’s chief mission is to help cure disease, which implies a translational justification for work funded through NIH grants.) In other words, NSF is purely interested in answering the questions that just help us understand the world around us better.
Interestingly, NSF also adamantly prioritizes public outreach of basic science findings. Currently, NSF is the only federal granting agency that specifically requires grant applicants to write into their proposals activities that they intend to do so promote disemination of their findings to the public. Nature News discussed this requirement earlier this year:
But no agency has gone as far as the US National Science Foundation (NSF), which will not even consider a proposal unless it explicitly includes activities to demonstrate the project’s ‘broader impacts’ on science or society at large. “The criterion was established to get scientists out of their ivory towers and connect them to society,” explains Arden Bement, director of the NSF in Arlington, Virginia.
In other words, NSF expects each of its funded investigators to present the broader impacts of their science to the at-large population to improve the general scientific education. But, in the case of “Science Friday”, it refuses to do that work directly — even if it’s just by cutting a cheque to NPR?
Now that NSF is pulling funding for “Science Friday”, the show is desperate to stay on the air. NPR only provides 10% of production costs to any show it broadcasts, so “Science Friday” is now urging listeners to donate to the show and keep it afloat.
Act Now! Please join me in donating to “Science Friday” via its donation page (donations sent through Paypal). You can also contact NSF and urge them to reconsider their de-funding of “Science Friday” via the NSF’s contact page.