Monday, November 21, 2005

Brain Drain to the World

The brain drain has begun. This article has to be one of the saddest, yet most unexpected, that I’ve read in a long, long time. It is no surprise to those who follow that the United States has been falling behind in science for quite sometime now. At first it was merely the slipping test scores and international competitions. We invented a programming competition in the 80s, and we came in first every time for the first few annual events. Last year, we finished a measly 17th. Our math, science, literacy, geography scores are falling in comparison to the rest of the world.

The tide began to turn against us a long time ago. For me, the first real clue was when several high tech companies moved their research labs overseas. It was the first instance I had where they had not moved merely their manufacturing, as companies have been doing in the global arena for years, but pure R&D. Signifying that other countries had finally caught up to our level. China produces an enormous amount of college graduates every year. And the quality of education in Singapore, India, China, Japan, Germany, has reached the point where they can attract the top-name companies, and the research labs they possess. There once was a time when, if you wanted your child to go to the very best school in the world, s/he went to the United States.

Now, however, that is not necessarily the case. The home-grown universities are beginning to generate higher-quality educations, for a fraction of the price. And their dedication is beginning to show dividends.

And how are we keeping up with the rest of the world in science (my forte)? We slash funding for research. We deny access to stem cell lines. At the fundamental level of education in this country, K-12, when we should be inspiring children, planting in them a life-long desire to question, to learn, to progress, we want to teach them Intelligent Design. With all of the inherent problems in our education system, with all the bungles, red tape, excessive bullshit schools have to wade through, with all the inaccuracies, bad teaching, poor funding, we worry about Intelligent Design? Months, years have been spent debating a topic which was solved in the 1920s. And no other country in the world is having similar problems. It is purely an American phenomenon.

South Korea has taken up the torch to become the leader in stem cell research. They are doing things we can’t even come close to. Achievements that could have gone to the US, along with all the financial rewards (patents on medications, therapies, royalties, licensing), have slipped from our fingertips. We sit, debating on an issue which no other country seems to quarrel with. You don’t hear about stem cell debates in Europe; they realize the possibilities that lie within these multi-faceted cells. But we sit and bog ourselves down in these so-called “ethical” debates. And now we have lost two people who, "Without a doubt, are the best people I know to find out which genes are altered to cause cancer." Singapore is a more attractive place for the top two minds in our country rather than their homeland to continue their very important research. What a sham. It has been a long time since I have felt ashamed of what my country is doing to itself, how it is rupturing its future. Today I do.

Text of the article: Scientists Leave U.S. To Do Stem Cell Research

November 21, 2005 3:00 p.m. EST by Andrea Moore

Stanford, CA (AHN) - Two government biologists recruited by Stanford University have decided to work in Singapore, saying they will face fewer restrictions on stem cell research overseas.

Neal Copeland and Nancy Jenkins, geneticists for the National Cancer Institute in Frederick, Maryland. A California ballot measure approved in 2004. say they are concerned about delays in the allocation of $3 billion set aside by a

The married couple are famous for discovering a way to accelerate the identification of cancer-causing genes in mice. The hope is to advance this discovery by using embryonic stem-cell cultures to build models of different cancers. If researchers can learn which genes are mutated in cancer, they may be able to develop drugs to block mutations.

At Singapore of Molecular and Cell Biology, the couple's discoveries would first be patented and used in Singapore.

"It is a loss for Stanford and a loss for America," Irving Weissman, director of Stanford's Institute for Cancer and Stem Cell Biology and Medicine told The Associated Press. "Without a doubt, they are the best people I know to find out which genes are altered to cause cancer."

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