Would Einstein get funded today?

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The West is losing ground in the scientific research race, a Royal Society report reveals, and it's much harder to get backing for blue-sky thinking, says Michael Day.

Harvard's position as the world's leading university appears unassailable. This side of the Atlantic, Cambridge University is justifiably proud of its status as the pre-eminent producer of Nobel prize winners. But it would be unwise to draw too much comfort from the reputations of the West's top research institutions. The proportion of the world's peer-reviewed research papers produced by US scientists has fallen by a fifth in less than 10 years. And the city of Sao Paulo in Brazil is now producing more papers than Cambridge.

A global change in science research is coming, and the most populous nation is leading the way. In line with its meteoric economic rise, China's emergence as a scientific power is confirmed by a new Royal Society report, Knowledge, Networks and Nations: Global scientific collaboration in the 21st century, published today, which shows it rivalling the traditional "scientific superpowers" of the US, Western Europe and Japan – and in some cases beating them....

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Donald Wolberg - 3/30/2011

The title of this little item is as interesting as the topic. As I recall, Einstein, that most interesting and complex scientist, conducted what he termed "mind experiemnts." Most of the experimental work that he needed to confirm his hypotheses were conducted by experimentalists elsewhere. If he really needed funds today, I doubt if NSF would support a chair, blackboard and real chalk, or tobacco for a pipe.