Monday, August 23, 2010

Politics and Paleo

As members of the VertPaleo listserv may have recently noticed (or noticed for years now), politics and paleontology often don't go together. You can never make anyone in a group happy when you talk about politics to start off with, and it is generally wise to just keep your thoughts to yourself.

Politics recently entered the realm of paleontology again, this time to bitch about sending students on a trip to China. And, no suprise, it involved two of my "favorite" guys: Arizona Senator John McCain and Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma. You may remember our old friend Coburn who was a pain in the ass about PRPA. I guess these two guys (or thier interns and staff most likely) got together and put together a list of "100 stimulus projects that give taxpayers the blues." [pdf link to report]

The 76th item on their list was a NSF funded trip for Montana State students to travel to China to study dinosaur eggs. Which they did. And sure, while they were over there, they saw things other than dinosaur eggs. So whats the big deal?  Its not like the school was spending the NSF money on extra trips to sight-see. But isn't it in the best interest of students visiting another country to experience all that country has to offer?

From the report:

Field Trip to Study Dinosaur Eggs…in China (Bozeman, MT) - $141,002463
This past spring, nine students from Montana State University (MSU) were given a six-week, all expense paid trip to China, funded by the National Science Foundation.464 MSU received a grant to send students to work with researchers at the Natural History Museum in Hangzhou studying various dinosaur eggs and other fossils.465 In a conversation with a local resident of Wuzhen, one of the students said “I told him that I was here to study dinosaur eggs. He replied with, ’Bloody hell! That’s the sort of thing you just can’t make up!’” While there, the students spent six weeks examining and cataloguing the eggs. As recorded on the group’s blog, however, they were still able to take plenty of time to let their hair down hiking on the Great Wall, spending a day at the Xixi National Wetland Park, exploring several small towns, visiting the opera, and touring the Tiatai temples. Not to worry though, according to one student blogger, “Believe it or not from previous blog posts, we have been hard at work doing research.” [page 39-40 of report]
Once again, politicians making a big deal out of nothing.

© ReBecca K. Hunt-Foster