The official word is that the scope of the beekeeping research on the Columbus (Ohio State) campus at the Rothenbuhler Bee Laboratory has been ‘reduced’ for the present. While the OSU Entomology administration recognizes the importance and contributions of the lab, restricted funding is a fact within university systems across the US.
From those I’ve talked to, that’s short for: the Lab is closed until we can find someone who can bring in the grants to fund the lab. The sad fact is much of beekeeping research and breeding programs simply don’t bring in the big corporate grants because there isn’t a product at the end of the research that can be sold to millions of people, directly at least. While the high-tech science brings in the dollars with it’s promise for new drugs and treatments down the road (and only a few hives are needed for that). Much of the research wanted by beekeepers involves the labor intensive and sometimes tedious task of running 100’s of hives. All to develop a bee that doesn’t need treatment or inexpensive treatments that only 10,000s of people will buy.
It’s disappointing, but really not surprising. The bee scientist position at the lab has been vacant for several years and Sue Cobey who ran the NWC program at Ohio State left for the Laidlaw Bee Laboratory at the University of California at Davis. Sue will be a great asset there, and I have a feeling the Lab may still have closed eventually even if she had stayed. The days when the university will do research for the public good even if a particular program can’t generate the direct income are gone. Even with bee research in spite of the fact we all benefit every time we eat an apple, almond, blueberry, pear, or 100 other fruits and vegetables.
Now, if you could train bees to play football, then you would have a nearly endless stream of money. The average coach in the BCS conference has a 1.4 million dollar salary. Couldn’t we take just 10% of that and hire someone to do real research. A fraction of the profits from football would fund the entire research program. Are our priorities in the right place?