Like almost any area of human endevour there is of course the critical matter of money – work needs people to do it and people inevitably face the old “food on table/roof over head” problem. Persuits such as science and mathematics rarely see immediate profit though they frequently eventually have uses and there are many examples of this. This timescale makes it almost imposible for private enterprise to play much role in funding these persuits (though, like any rule, there is the odd exception). This naturally forces taxpayers’ money to be used instead.
I don’t know how funding in other countries works, but currently in the UK the principal funding body for mathematics is the Engineering and Physical Science Research Council (becuse pure mathematics is a branch of engineering, right?)
I say this since, over on Mathematics Under the Microscope, Sasha Borovic highlights the fact that a research programme he has been involved in for 25 years and has been extremely fruitious producing many results and yet has never recieved a single panny from EPSRC. He laments:
LMS (the London Mathematical Society) has a different philosophy: it funds people, not projects. The LMS grants are tiny in comparison with EPSRC, but if the outcome is measured in theorems per pound, the LMS grants are likely to be an order of magnitude more cost-effective than ones from EPSRC.
Why is this? Should government bodies change their policies accordingly? Is the situation similar in other countries and disciplines? Could this be taken further (e.g. funding individual papers)?
Comments, Commendations, Castigations…