Infectious disease relief funds should provide much-needed scientific research. And we should use those dollars where they can do better.
In rural America, distrust of science is relatively high. The ramifications are huge, as rural votes depend on who is chosen for the government and whether their decisions are based on the best science available. If the villagers choose influential politicians who don’t trust science, American leadership will suffer from global problems. Our nation and others are at greater risk on issues such as climate change and epidemics.
As the U.S. House and Senate plan to provide more aid to epidemics in the United States, they should ensure that some of this money supports science – especially rural colleges and university science.
Such funding will bring more scientists to rural societies. Confidence in science will increase when scientists are part of rural communities. As a scientist at a rural university, I am often asked whether climate change is real. People trust my answer, not because I have studied the impact of climate change and am the lead author of an interministerial panel on climate change in 2019, but because they call me a neighbor and a friend. Knowledge as
Trust is the only reason to increase science funding for rural colleges and universities. These institutions offer science the opportunity to involve local communities. I learn from my community members what they think should be part of my research. Without community participation, science cannot be reconciled with social priorities and is therefore not used.
Research in rural areas also improves our understanding of the benefits of nature in the corners of the country, from providing a variety of shelters to growing crops to supporting the abundance of marine life. In Colorado, I read how people affect mountain snow cover and how mountain snow cover affect plants, water supply, and people. This natural wealth in rural schools is our national savings, and without rural science we don’t know how much money is in the bank or how quickly we spend it.
Covid 19 brings another benefit of science funding to rural colleges and universities. Epidemics block the science of some changes worldwide and leave important environmental data untouched. But as a rural scientist, I can hire students and do research in my area, even if the journey is limited. By funding epidemic aid, we can learn how the mountain we live in responds to this tremendous change in human activity.
While great science can take place in rural America, rural scientists are currently facing enormous financial constraints. To overcome this, we buy new home appliances from Walmart and use old ones donated by retired scientists. This is not a favorable environment to attract more scientists and students. We have to change that now by providing funding to promote science in rural areas.
Federal funding for research could be a lifeline for rural schools. Modern equipment and real laboratory space will change the game. Field stations can ensure that we can study tundra landscapes and deserts and connect with their own well-being. Recovery funds can help rural institutions get and keep new faculty services by providing the resources they need.
Funding science-based epidemics should not only support existing research and new positions where science is already flourishing. The choice of funds must be strategic. You need equality. They should help rural science create a better future for all of us.
Heidi Stiltzer (@ Heidi Fountains), mountain scientist
This opinion was originally published in Asia. Heidi Stelitzer is the lead author of the Special Report on Climate Change (IPCC) in September 2019 and Professor of Environment and Sustainability for the International Government Panel at Fort Lewis College in Durango, Cologne. ۔