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RE: Massacre of Scientists

> From: ekaterina A [mailto:a_ekaterina@yahoo.com]
> One question I would like to ask is whether there is a
>  general downturn of dinosaur studies or is it just
> that certain sources of funding are being cut out. Can
> some one give me a figure in US $s of the average
> expenditure required to complete the excavation and
> description of a medium-sized theropod. Evidently,
> some academic paleotologist like Sereno, Clarke or
> Forster get a limited set of funds from agencies like
> Nat.geo to run their exploratory programs. Are these
> funds also getting difficult to obtain these days?

Actually, to be fair, they are still about as available as ever.  That is,
people compete for Nat. Geo. or NSF or whatever grants, and a fraction of
them get it.

However, what you are talking about is the expenditures for a particular
expedition.  That is NOT the problem.  The problem is that it is the basic
expenditures (i.e., salaries, paying for phone lines, paying for electricty,
etc.) that are getting clobbered in public institutions!

The big problem right now, the one that is causing the recent problems in
Nebraska and Arizona, is that there IS a global recession.  Furthermore, the
institutions mentioned previously were often funded directly or indirectly
through individual U.S. state budgets (1).  Most U.S. state budgets (unlike
the U.S. federal budget) are required by law to be balanced: so, if there is
a short fall of income (like now, where most U.S. states are in the worst
fiscal crisis since the 1940s!) then some services would have to be cut
and/or additional sources of revenue found.

Thus, state legislatures tend to hit higher education and natural resource
management services quite hard (these being the two aspects of the state
budget that a museum would like be funded by), in part because neither
university students nor wildlife vote in significant numbers.  Thus, these
portions can be cut without the state executives or legislators fearing
serious reprisals in the voting booths.

(Incidentally, it is happening to the Maryland budget, too.  Higher
education has received 1/3 of the total cuts for our section of the state
budget, even though we only make up 1/10 of that section of the budget.  An
additional budget cut 55% the size of the one we've already been hit with is
scheduled to go into effect this year.  Quite honestly, there is a non-zero
chance that I'll be emailing from a different address this time next year).

> Also is there a trend of good students now moving away
> from paleontology?

Actually, no!!  Quite the opposite, in my experience.

> Why are museums are not very
> effective generators of revenue these days?

Museums have never been effective generators of revenue: they tend (and
always have tended) to have to rely heavily on private donations and/or
state or federal funding.

(1) An aside for our non-U.S. list members: just in case you didn't know the
details, Americans pay separate taxes to support a federal budget (which
supports the activities of the national federal government) and a state
budget (which supports the activities of the various agencies in each of the
50 states).  So a given museum might be a federal one (the Smithsonian), a
state-supported one (or even a muncipally supported one), a fully private
one (like the AMNH), or sometimes some combination thereof.

                Thomas R. Holtz, Jr.
                Vertebrate Paleontologist
Department of Geology           Director, Earth, Life & Time Program
University of Maryland          College Park Scholars
                College Park, MD  20742
Phone:  301-405-4084    Email:  tholtz@geol.umd.edu
Fax (Geol):  301-314-9661       Fax (CPS-ELT): 301-405-0796