‘Philanthropy Is No Substitute for Government Funding’ – NYTimes.com
There has been an upsurge in philanthropy for scientific research by America’s billionaires. As documented by William J. Broad in a recent report for The Times, the sums are huge; the quests serious; the results impressive.
Still, in size and scope, philanthropy pales in comparison to public financing for science.
A quick look at some numbers bears this out: The Giving Pledge, a campaign started in 2010 by Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett, has so far signed up roughly 100 of America’s nearly 500 billionaires, who promise to give most of their fortunes to charity. Of them, about 40 have said they plan to donate to studies in science, health and the environment; if they gave away all their assets to those causes, which no one expects them to do, it would come to around $250 billion – about two years’ worth of federal financing for research and development in bad budget times, like the present, with public spending depressed by ill-advised austerity.