[Coral-List] Hector Reyes and the Coral Guild

Gene Shinn eshinn at marine.usf.edu
Fri Mar 16 10:53:24 EDT 2007

Hector Reyes, You are right on Target. It's a Slippery Slope
       In 1948 Leo Szilard, The man who had talked Einstein into 
writing the letter to the President that kicked off the Manhattan 
Project and development of the Bomb, wrote an amusing short story 
called the Mark Gale Foundation. In it the science hero, sometime in 
the future, is asked by a wealthy entrepreneur who believes that 
science has progressed too quickly, "what he could do to retard this 
progress." The hero answers: "You could set up a foundation, with an 
annual endowment of thirty million dollars. Researchers in need of 
funds could apply for grants, if they could make a convincing case. 
Set up ten committees, each composed of twelve scientists to pass on 
these applications. Take the most active scientists out of the 
laboratory and make them members of these committees. First of all, 
the best scientists would be removed from their laboratories and kept 
busy on committees passing on applications for funds. Secondly the 
scientific worker in need of funds would concentrate on problems that 
were considered promising and were pretty certain to lead to funding 
and publishable results. By going after the obvious, pretty soon 
science would dry out. Science would become something like a parlor 
game. There would be fashions. Those who followed the fashions would 
get grants. Those who wouldn't would not." That was 1948!
      Was that prophecy or what? Most of you would agree that we 
reached this stage long ago. The difference is that in addition to 
writing proposals and reviewing proposals to do coral reef research 
we generally spend even more time writing and waiting for permits to 
do the research than we spend writing the actual proposals. It 
happens to me every time!
      Now we are being asked to sign on to a coral reef guild and take 
an oath that we will not harm any corals while doing research! That 
smacks of making an omelet without cracking an egg. Is this not a 
slippery slope that will lead to even greater restrictions, more 
paper work and delays? Might not the granting and permitting agencies 
then be petitioned by the NGOs and faith-based organizations that 
thrive on public contributions to create new rules (after a long 
costly series of public hearings in exotic places) so that extra 
layers of bureaucracy to comply with the new rules can be made into 
law? Oh Leo, if you could have truly seen into the future.   Gene


No Rocks, No Water, No Ecosystem (EAS)
------------------------------------ -----------------------------------
E. A. Shinn, Courtesy Professor
University of South Florida
Marine Science Center (room 204)
140 Seventh Avenue South
St. Petersburg, FL 33701
<eshinn at marine.usf.edu>
Tel 727 553-1158---------------------------------- 

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