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Michael Nielsen
PLoS Biology: Real Lives and White Lies in the Funding of Scientific Research - http://www.plosbiology.org/article...
"The peculiar demands of our granting system have favoured an upper class of skilled scientists who know how to raise money for a big group... They have mastered a glass bead game that rewards not only quality and honesty, but also salesmanship and networking." I agree with much in this article. Some years back I constructed a list of papers I especially admired, and was surprised to discover that with only a few exceptions they were produced from unfunded research. This was sobering, since it suggest that receiving research grants was (at least according to my judgement of scientific quality) anticorrelated with doing work of the highest quality. Grants seem to be good at sustaining an established area, but not very good at all at producing the conceptual innovations that start new subfields. - Michael Nielsen
Depressing - Rajarshi Guha
@Duncan, oh absolutely. The idea of long contracts (5 - 7 years) makes sense. But these approaches will really require systemic changes - even if I could get by with small amounts of money (say for 1 student), the university won't like the fact that I'm not bringing in gobs of money to pay for electricity - Rajarshi Guha
I agree with Duncan that although the situation is depressing (and quite accurately represented in there), seeing it gain higher profile is refreshing. - Daniel Mietchen
Pushing these issues more and more is vital if we want things to change - even if we don't agree on the solutions, awareness of the problems is a prerequisite for change. - Björn Brembs
To be nitpicky, I'm afraid that the following suggestion is as open to abuse and laziness as the current one: "Everyone should get slotted into a funding category and assessed every five years. If you're productive, you get five more years of resources. If productivity is down, you are moved down a category. If it is high, you can apply to move up. Starting PIs are in a different category and must apply to get onto the treadmill. The difference: PIs would be judged by overall productivity, not grantsmanship." This is similar to French system, though the funds are a pittance, and is not a lot more effect nor devoid of less savory aspects. - Heather
Hmm. can't write English today. The suggested improvement to the system is subject to abuse, as much so as the current system - dead wood will be carried along. No room will be made for younger people moving up the ranks. And I meant "effective". - Heather
Lest we forget: http://www.nytimes.com/2008...: "Trained as a biochemist, Dr. Prasher, 57, was interested in the chemistry of how certain animals are able to glow. In the late 1980s, he applied to the National Institutes of Health for a five-year grant to track down the fluorescent protein gene...'I knew it could serve as a genetic marker and it would be really, really useful, which it has turned out to be.' That application was turned down..." - Richard Klancer
Michael Nielsen wrote above: "Some years back I constructed a list of papers I especially admired, and was surprised to discover that with only a few exceptions they were produced from unfunded research. This was sobering, since it suggest that receiving research grants was (at least according to my judgement of scientific quality) anticorrelated with doing work of the highest quality. Grants seem to be good at sustaining an established area, but not very good at all at producing the conceptual innovations that start new subfields." Do you have a blog post about this? Your list? Spelled-out your criteria for quality? - Bora Zivkovic
I don't have a blog post about it. To make the judgement I used a large fraction of what I know as a scientist. I couldn't easily reduce that to a short list of criteria. - Michael Nielsen