Reason has a great article explaining that libertarians and conservatives need to abandon their reflexive hatred of government if they want to make any progress.
I happen to work in a government-supported industry, so you can imagine that I’m receptive to this point of view. I have a much longer post about how I, as a libertarian-conservative, can still work in this industry. The gist, however, is that basic science is one of the few things that government does really really well. It’s one of the few endeavors, like roads and law enforcement, that benefits everyone but doesn’t have specific enough benefits to make it worth the private sector’s while.
Moreover, the reason science works well in the government paradigm is because government science is run very very differently from government everything else. Budgets tend to be strict and have to be justified in advance. Progress is closely monitored. Funding is dependent on past performance. And merit is decided by fellow scientists (mostly), not politicians.
The GOP tried to reform other government functions along these lines in 1995 but were fiercely resisted by federal employee unions and their subservient Democratic party. Attempts to reform, say, the school lunch program were denounced as drastic cuts in the program and leaving kids to starve.
A pity, really.