Ask anyone what they think of special interest groups, and the response usually is negative.
Ask anyone what they think of a particular special interest group representing one of their particular interests, and you will likely hear a different tone.
All week long, there has been a Materials Voice booth set up on the second floor, where you can email your Congresspeople with your thoughts. Both in person and online, I was told "Tell your legislators why support of the physical sciences and science education is necessary -- for national security, quality of life, and a strong economy."
This is a special interest group if I've ever seen one. And this is why it's so hard to cut the federal budget. When some program gets put on the chopping block, everyone benefitting from it will start to complain (a special interest group).
Even though I benefit from materials science funding and think it does good things for society, it's not so clear to me that we should spend more on it. Every dollar of resources consumed by research is a dollar not consumed somewhere else, such as paying off the debt, supporting the poor, building infrastructure, or giving citizens a tax break.
Even if you disagree with me, and think it IS a clear issue that we are underspending on materials research, I think we can all agree that coming up with an optimal number is all but impossible. Clearly, spending 100% of the federal budget on materials research is too much, and 0% is too little, but the optimum in between is hard to measure or calculate.
What do you guys think?
Is materials research funding too low? Or too high? Or is this an ill-posed question altogether?
Are we materials researchers a special interest group? And if so, is that good or bad or neither?
Chime in in the the comments!