Re: Stefan Grimm

1

It's been surprising to me to see just how vigorously the UK is working to trash its universities. When did this become such a priority?


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 12- 4-14 7:40 AM
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I think the commonly accepted answer is "1979".


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 12- 4-14 7:42 AM
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3

The Smashing Pumpkins song?


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 12- 4-14 7:45 AM
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4

But it's coming your way, I strongly fear.

Your worry is misplaced. It went the other way. You certainly can't be a professor* here without getting multiple large grants.

* that is a full professor.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12- 4-14 7:51 AM
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5

4: In the sciences.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 12- 4-14 7:54 AM
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6

In Wisconsin


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 12- 4-14 7:56 AM
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7

At an R1 university.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 12- 4-14 7:57 AM
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8

With a muppet.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 12- 4-14 7:57 AM
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9

This is an apt thread to update from several years ago that my partner's lawsuit against her former (college) employers did show a pattern of discrimination against gays but not clearly enough POC or older workers and only those last two are protected categories and without anyone willing to twirl a mustache under oath, although I don't think some of the deposition testimony was much short of that, it's all over and there's nothing we can do. I mean, short of plowing in thousands more dollars in legal fees to try to get it to a less conservative judge, but it doesn't feel like there's enough point to that to make it worth the pain it would cause us. So that sucks.


Posted by: Eleanor Roosevelt | Link to this comment | 12- 4-14 7:59 AM
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10

5, 7: Yes. That's the job description, explicitly. If you don't want to hunt for grants that generate income and jobs for the university, you have to either give up on being a professor or you have to go to smaller school.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12- 4-14 7:59 AM
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11

9: Ugh, I'm sorry to hear that.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 12- 4-14 8:02 AM
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12

10: It sounded, though, like this guy did get money. It just was piecemeal instead of all at once in headline-grabbing ways.

Also, I know that Mass General is trying to beef up private philanthropic research funding, since NIH grants are declining.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 12- 4-14 8:03 AM
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13

I'm all too familiar with the chasing after grants side of academic science. But in the UK it seems like something more vindictive is going on. It sounds like there are some almost cartoonishly awful folks running things who are devising "metrics" deliberately designed to screw with people.


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 12- 4-14 8:06 AM
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14

I too am puzzled by the implied directionality here. This university culture is definitely common to top-tier anglophone unis, and is a specific case from the general trend of the MBA wanker class capturing, looting, and ruining everything.


Posted by: real ffeJ annaH | Link to this comment | 12- 4-14 8:08 AM
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15

12.1 is correct. He was fired for not grabbing headlines, not for not bringing in money.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 12- 4-14 8:08 AM
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16

Also, I know that Mass General is trying to beef up private philanthropic research funding, since NIH grants are declining.

Oh good, wealthy people always have the best ideas about which research to fund.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 12- 4-14 8:08 AM
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17

12, 15: "Headline-grabbing" seems a bit odd in this context. And I don't understand the ins and outs of the British grant system. But here, for very sound financial reasons (i.e. indirects), a single NIH grant for $1 million is much, much better for the university than five grants for $200,000.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12- 4-14 8:11 AM
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18

It's been surprising to me to see just how vigorously the UK is working to trash its universities. When did this become such a priority?

It seems like the UK government thinks it's becoming more American by doing this, along the lines of privatizing everything in sight and preventing lower-income workers from living less than 20 miles from where they work. But actually they went way beyond the US level of university corporatization many years ago.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 12- 4-14 8:12 AM
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19

16: I didn't say that it was good for the research. It just seemed to me that the hospital is saying "Money is Money, and we don't care where it comes from." As opposed to blaming someone for not getting an NIH grant.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 12- 4-14 8:12 AM
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20

Vaguely related, I just want to bitch that the people in charge of SBIRs always like to wrap up their work before Christmas, so the solicitations go out in December, meaning the holidays are taken up with grant writing instead of fighting with drunken relatives.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 12- 4-14 8:12 AM
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21

19: no, sorry, I didn't think you were.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 12- 4-14 8:17 AM
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19: I have noticed recently that reality seems to be sinking in at a lot of institutions. Places that used to stick up their noses at non-NIH money are no longer quite so picky.


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 12- 4-14 8:25 AM
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23

The UK is way crazier than the US in terms of bizarre metrics. For example, departments are evaluated every n years (I forget if n is 5 or 6) based on publications in that time frame but you count anyone on faculty at the end. So most hiring happens the month before the deadline. Another great example is that their metrics only count published papers, not accepted papers.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in." (9) | Link to this comment | 12- 4-14 8:25 AM
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24

23: So, Jim Watson probably could have made a go of it in the UK today, but Frances Crick wouldn't? FWIW, Watson who is obviously an ass about a lot of things, always thought that Crick was smarter than he was.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 12- 4-14 8:28 AM
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25

Also, at least here I've been told that even in sciences (not just in math) people have gotten tenure without a big grant. It's been made clear to me that regularly applying for grants is expected for tenure, but that getting one is not necessary given how hard it is to get grants right now. That agrees with what I've heard at similar (R1, but not top 20) places: an NSF grant makes tenure a slam dunk, but its very possible to get tenure without a grant.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in." (9) | Link to this comment | 12- 4-14 8:30 AM
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26

a single NIH grant for $1 million is much, much better for the university than five grants for $200,000
Er, why would that be? NIH indirect is the negotiated percent with the university. Unless there are subcontracts that don't recover full overhead, either way you spend $1M direct and get $1M * x% indirect to the university.


Posted by: SP | Link to this comment | 12- 4-14 8:32 AM
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27

20- Ours is due this week which means Thanksgiving was taken up with grant writing instead of fighting with drunken relatives.


Posted by: SP | Link to this comment | 12- 4-14 8:33 AM
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28

I think health sciences might be different from basic sciences and math. There really isn't much teaching and faculty are close to 100% effort on research. I'm sure there are people who teach anatomy and such that don't have grants, but I never see them.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12- 4-14 8:33 AM
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29

26: That's what I thought too from listening to someone I know, but I don't have any direct experience myself and didn't want to ask.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 12- 4-14 8:34 AM
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30

24.1: Whose Nobel Prize is for sale. Supposedly most proceeds going to educational institutions (including U of C).


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 12- 4-14 8:36 AM
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31

Oh good, wealthy people always have the best ideas about which research to fund.

Of course they do, they're better than us. It's called Merit (TM).


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 12- 4-14 8:37 AM
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32

29- I would agree it's less actual work for them to administrate one $1M than 5 $200k, but they get the same amount of indirect funding.


Posted by: SP | Link to this comment | 12- 4-14 8:40 AM
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33

Bill Gates wrote us a nice letter about our work. And has given us lots of money.


Posted by: SP | Link to this comment | 12- 4-14 8:40 AM
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34

Some grants have various exceptions to indirect/overhead attached to them, which can be... exciting when people get them.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 12- 4-14 8:42 AM
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35

4-8: Why do you people obsess about my brother?


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 12- 4-14 8:45 AM
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36

26: It is my understanding that most foundations will not pay the full indirect rate. A university's indirect rate is set in negotiations with NIH and I always assumed it was partially designed to as a subsidy for all the research funded by foundations. A quick googling of a couple showed that they want to pay 12% (maximum) for indirects. The NIH pays something over 50% here.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12- 4-14 8:49 AM
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37

Sometimes small grants have rather different overhead systems than large ones. For example, Simons collaboration grants are 5K per year for the grantee, plus 1K for the chair to spend, plus 1K to the university. That's substantially less than the 60% (ish?) that the NSF would pay in overhead. The Sloan Fellowship is 50K with no overhead at all.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in." (9) | Link to this comment | 12- 4-14 8:52 AM
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38

One big difference that's relevant here is that tenure as we understand it in the US doesn't seem to exist in the UK. Someone at Grimm's rank couldn't be fired here in the way he was there.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 12- 4-14 8:52 AM
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39

32, 33: His foundation was one that I looked up. It's 10% vs. 50+%.

34: Fortunately, that's somebody else's job. It's a really mess.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12- 4-14 8:52 AM
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40

The linked blogpost basically says the university doesn't even care about the money, it only cares about how the money is translated into publicity, which happens more with large grants. I find that a little far-fetched though.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 12- 4-14 8:55 AM
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41

36: But straight donations from individuals who are building endowments might be different? Larry Ellison gave away gobs of money for research. Jim Watson raises a lot of cash for Cold Spring Harbor.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 12- 4-14 8:57 AM
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42

36- Oh yes, that's exactly right, foundations are notorious for that and we actually need special permission to apply for them because of under-recovery- if we get too many our admin budget is screwed. I assumed you meant 1x$1M or 5x$200k NIH grants are different, if all of the 5 are NIH I think it's equivalent.
Only 50%? You guys are cheap.


Posted by: SP | Link to this comment | 12- 4-14 8:58 AM
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43

38: In many medical schools, tenure as you understand it does not exist and hasn't for decades.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12- 4-14 8:58 AM
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44

25 Also, at least here I've been told that even in sciences (not just in math) people have gotten tenure without a big grant.

Presumably it depends on what kind of science they do, right? In my field the grants are small and we can do our work without them (although we can't hire postdocs without them, or even with them unless they're unusually large or we join them together as a group, since a standard NSF grant for junior faculty is way less than a postdoc's salary). But plenty of people just can't do their work without funding.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 12- 4-14 8:59 AM
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45

43: Was Grimm at a medical school? I may have missed that.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 12- 4-14 9:01 AM
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46

42: Most smaller NIH grants are explicitly for junior faculty.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12- 4-14 9:01 AM
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47

45: I have no idea, but toxicology sounds medical.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12- 4-14 9:01 AM
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48

||

Okay, so nobody died, but I put a wedding photography bleg in the Revisions thread which fizzled the instant I commented.

Come down and visit.

|>


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 12- 4-14 9:02 AM
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38: What 43 said. These days many (most?) positions at medical schools are soft money*, so tenure means "We won't fire you, we'll just stop paying you".

*I fled from such a position to a hard money place, and that decision is looking better and better every year.


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 12- 4-14 9:02 AM
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50

16 & 31. There are fair number of charities that fund MGH research that are not associated with wealthy people.

29. Usually administration is a fixed percentage of the contract in research grants, at least in my experience. It may depend on who the customer is, though.


Posted by: DaveLMA | Link to this comment | 12- 4-14 9:03 AM
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51

Grimm was a professor in the Faculty of Medicine at Imperial College London, which merged with various schools of medicine starting in 1988, reorganizing them as the Imperial College School of Medicine in 1997. So, yes.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 12- 4-14 9:07 AM
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52

49: I know someone who's been on soft money his whole life. He's like 70 now and still working because he loves it, but there was a year a few years ago where he basically did 90% work for 50% pay. He was amazing at getting grants in a 30%-are-funded world. He's been struggling in the 5-10%-funding world.

He's also cobbled together a lot of stuff, because he's a shitty PI. Stuff at the school of public health on lungs, stuff in physiology of sleep for another lab at a hospital, applied math for some radiologists. He also seems to do consulting. This got really complicated when he sent a bill to MGH and then got hired by a lab at the Brigham (and since those are both part of Partners) he was suddenly an employee trying to do consulting. I don't know if he ever got paid for that.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 12- 4-14 9:07 AM
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53

Yeah, medical schools seem to operate by completely different rules than the rest of academia. I think by numbers, an overwhelmingly large fraction of the faculty at my university are medical faculty, but they don't actually teach, so their job has basically no resemblance to what we usually think of as a faculty job.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 12- 4-14 9:07 AM
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54

53: The person I know at the School of Public Health does teach some and can substitute teaching for a some percentage of his salary if he can't cover it with a grant.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 12- 4-14 9:09 AM
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55

I'm sure they can teach, and maybe generally do give one lecture a semester or something like that, but it's clear just by numbers that most of them usually are not doing any teaching: I think the university claims 10,000 affiliated medical faculty.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 12- 4-14 9:15 AM
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56

53: Right, their job is to spend all day writing grants, and supervise people doing work in their labs. So they can in fact do their job without grant funding, but with nobody to supervise it starts to seem pointless.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 12- 4-14 9:16 AM
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57

I was under the impression that a large fraction of them also have a clinical practice and/or a position at a hospital, so that if their academic position was cut they would still have a decent job. Is that not actually true? It seems hard to imagine 10,000 people doing research full-time funded by grants, but maybe the medical research world really is that huge.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 12- 4-14 9:20 AM
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58

55: I wasn't clear. If he teaches a couple courses (not just lectures), he can get 20% of his salary paid for that way. Numbers ex-recto. Giving talks is just part of his job. If he gets the grant money, he doesn't have to teach. Lecturer at the school of public health, bogus professor title at the medical school.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 12- 4-14 9:21 AM
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59

57: The MD-only ones probably can. The PhDs (unless they are psychologists) need to get funded.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 12- 4-14 9:23 AM
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60

57: Yes, they have clinical jobs if they are MDs. And if not, many of them have another job in another college (as mentioned in 58).


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12- 4-14 9:23 AM
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61

No, you were clear, and I understood what you meant. I was just saying that at any given time, only a small fraction of the medical school can be having their salary paid that way, because there simply aren't enough classes to teach to go around.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 12- 4-14 9:24 AM
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62

57, most of them are probably just doctors in that number. Look at a pretty high-profile college of medicine's "Faculty" of gastroenterology and there's 30 people, 26 of them with an M.D. That's one of many divisions within the Department of Medicine. Look at the entire Department of Biochemistry and there's only 18.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 12- 4-14 9:28 AM
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63

In case everybody hasn't figured this out, I'm not exactly a neutral party on this stuff. I am entirely financially dependent on Big Research. This is not to say that smaller research projects can't be important and useful. I'm just saying that only professors with big grants can usefully employ me at the types of work I enjoy.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12- 4-14 9:31 AM
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64

62: When I was at a medical school, a large number of the faculty were MD's with practices up to 100 miles away from the university and who, as far as I can tell, rarely if ever visited campus.


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 12- 4-14 9:34 AM
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65

So do we agree that the NIH funding crisis is all Moby's fault?


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 12- 4-14 9:35 AM
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66

Not 1979 - Thatcher let the higher ed system expand hugely, not least because it was a great way to soak up spare youngs who might otherwise be counted as unemployed. It was John Major who invented the research assessment exercise, student loans, and tuition fees, and then Tony Blair made it all much worse in his own inimitable way!


Posted by: Alex | Link to this comment | 12- 4-14 9:47 AM
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67

This is an apt thread to update from several years ago that my partner's lawsuit against her former (college) employers . . .

Uggh, sorry to hear that.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 12- 4-14 10:43 AM
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68

23 - every 7 years. Waiting for the latest results to come out in January (iirc). C spent a large amount of last year working on theirs. I should try to get him to comment on this thread.


Posted by: asilon | Link to this comment | 12- 4-14 11:43 AM
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69

63. I hope the work you enjoy involves at minimum lasers and explosions, or perhaps a secret lair.


Posted by: DaveLMA | Link to this comment | 12- 4-14 12:11 PM
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70

66 is sort of exactly wrong. Thatcher did expand student numbers in higher education, but on a flat funding basis (thus forcibly reducing spend per student). The RAE and student loans both kicked in under Major, but both were from legislation passed under Thatcher which took a couple of years to start up. And undergraduate tuition fees were a Blairite invention, firstly at the £1k and then at the £3k levels. Thatcher also, relevantly to this, abolished tenure.


Posted by: Wrongness police | Link to this comment | 12- 5-14 2:08 AM
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||

Vaguely relatedly, dudes on the plane behind me appear to be contractors for the Space Exploration Industrial Complex. They are whinging about how bad Obama "lacks vision", took away their money, and outsourced their jobs to Kazakhstan. Apparently, if Obama had inspired the public like Neal DeGrasse Tyson does, it would be sweet clover for everyone. Rarely have I heard special pleading that was so unsympathetic and so not self-aware, and I hear a lot of both in my line of work. No trace of awareness that competing budget priorities could possibly be as important as theirs.

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Posted by: Knecht ruprecht | Link to this comment | 12- 5-14 6:43 AM
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