Res.Funding and Politics

Alexander Berezin berezin at MCMAIL.CIS.MCMASTER.CA
Tue Dec 5 16:04:43 EST 1995

On 4 Dec 1995, William Tivol wrote:

> Alexander Berezin (berezin at MCMAIL.CIS.MCMASTER.CA) wrote:
> : > c) "Inviting politicians to address groups of scientists and engineers is
> : > another effective educational and political advocacy tool that is not 
> : > lobbying."
> : OK, that's good, though it is likely rather difficult to 
> : achieve on a case by case basis. We are a low priority item
> : for the polititians and it's tough to convince them to 
> : spend time on us, or even show up on campus.   

> Dear Alex,
> 	It may be of interest that a staff member of a congressman who is
> on an important budget committee spoke to a session at the Microscopy Soc-
> iety of America meeting last August.  He had many specific suggestions for
> making our concerns known, and these were often specifically suitable for
> this year's budget climate.  A major scientific society should have no
> trouble setting up a similar session and getting an appropriate speaker.
> By the way, a staff member could well be more appropriate than the 
> congressperson, since (s)he would have no particular public position to 
> defend. Thus (s)he can be more open about the plusses and minusses of 
> a given strategy.
> 				Yours,
> 				Bill Tivol


This is all OK and perhaps indeed stuff members (rather than 
elected polititians) are more useful for such meetings. The main 
point though (which I am trying to deliver in my postings) is 
that it to start with the message to the politicians "give us 
more money to do our science" is to start from the wrong end. 

It is not to say, that science community should not push for 
more share of funds, of course, like any other interest group 
thay can do this, but the difference between us and other
professional or interest groups is that we are self-divided by 
the funding apartheid through the mechanism of INETRNAL 
"competition" between us for research funds. For as long as
the competition article of faith is central it will always 
work as "take from him and give to me" principle.  

Typical (in my view, at least) aberration in this regard was
a plea (collective letter) initiated a few months ago by 
bio-medical researchers in one of Ontario universities to 
pusue the Canadian government to allocate more money on research 
(I am not clear was it a plea for just a biomedical research, or
a university research in general, but that't rather secondary).
When I contacted one of the above campaigners saying that we
FIRST have to address the DISTRIBUTION problem of the EXISTING
funds (by curbing the "competition", secretive peer review,
changing to sliding funding scale, dismissing the misleading
hyperbole of "excellence", etc), I was told that they (letter
writers) don't want any amendments on the these, that they 
believe that all the above (peer review, selectivity, etc)
works well and, yes, that ALL the problem is in "more money".

This is where we are. Begging is always easier than own
house cleaning (especially when the house mess is deep).
The present research funding stuation (or some call it
"funding crises" - I don't buy this) is first of all the
problem of the fair DISTRIBUTION. It is, of course, not to
say that all should be funded equally or that a research 
funding is entitlement (obviously, it is not), but the
division of active researchers on haves and have-nots
is the PRIME cause of our down-slide in the eyes of the
public, no matter that this cause is hidden from the
direct observation and usually attributed to something

Alexander A. Berezin, PhD
Department of Engineering Physics
McMaster University, Hamilton,
Ontario, Canada, L8S 4L7
tel. (905) 525-9140 ext. 24546


More information about the Bioforum mailing list