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Basic science research projects often become political punching bags, trotted out during budget talks as examples of frivolous spending of taxpayer money. Targets of the mockery can vary so much from season to season that it’s hard to keep track of what’s considered wasteful in a given year, but the tone is usually the same -- a headline without context. The science of duck penises? Parisian fruit-fly research? Moth pheromones? Really?
Now, the researcher who studies duck penises has spoken out, penning a powerful argument in the journal BioScience in defense of oddball science driven by curiosity.
Patricia Brennan is a research scientist from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst who studies the bizarre and fascinating sexual battle that occurs between male and female ducks when they mate.