I’ve got a lot of responses, pro and con, to my previous post on the Human Genome Project. I appreciate them all. But I just came across one (hat tip to Warren in the comments) that I find interesting. Mike “the mad biologist” writes in his post with a great title The Human Genome Project: What Happens When You Do Budget-Limited Science (or You Get What You Pay For):
Far too expensive. When budgets are limited, you’re forced to generate the data that is easier to get–and cheaper. So when Mandel describes the HGP as an economic flop so far–and he would be inclined to do so since he is interested “the innovation shortfall”–he fails to understand that we didn’t invest in the HGP adequately. Seriously, compare the $3 billion for the HGP to the billions in tax breaks companies get every year for R&D. Or inflation-adjust the Manhattan Project. Let’s not even talk about the Marine Corps’ Osprey program. By comparison, the HGP was done on the cheap.
Now there’s an interesting thought. I’ve been going on the assumption that we were spending as fast as the science could absorb the money, but is it possible that we spent too little? The inflation-adjusted cost of the Manhattan project looks in the $22 billion range (Wikipedia number, which I rechecked).