Basic Funding: to Keith Robison

Ellis Golub ellis at
Thu Dec 14 11:40:35 EST 1995

I've only been following this thread lately, so I've probably missed something important.  
I think the really injured parties in the research funding lottery are the technical people whose
jobs are at stake every 3 - 5 years, and who have little or no ability to take charge of their own
destiny.  In contrast, individuals with Ph.D.'s, from post-docs on up can apply for funding independently,
and if they are successful, they can do research.  For many of these individuals, their jobs are not at stake, 
as their salaries come from "hard money".  While you're fixing the Peer Review System, you should provide
stable employment for technicians, allowing them to become "vested" after some period of time.  

Then, when you've devised the perfect system for distributing the remaining research funds, you can
assign technician time to funded projects.  This system would have the dual advantage of competitive
fundings for Ph.D.'s and stable jobs for those who are not empowered to compete for those funds.

In regard to the problem of how to judge research projects for funding, I believe there is no one system
which can ensure optimum productivity/dollar (bang-for-the-buck).  So long as science remains a human
institution, its administration will be subject to human foibles -- greed, stupidiity, inefficiency, politics,
prejudice, etc.  Like democracy itself, the present Peer Review System (or any replacement system I've seen
discussed here) is the worst possible system -- except for all the others.

While we cannot predict, with any certainty the probability of success of any research proposal, we can try
to make the system of distributing research funds as fair and as equitable as possible.  In addition, we would
be wise to use many different criteria for research support, including  (but not limited to) investigator track
record, present proposed research, institutional needs, programatic needs (directed research), etc.

In fairness, we should also provide job stability for those whom we employ, and whose lives are the most
at stake when application/renewal time comes around. 

In article <4anjs9$iqk at>, tivol at (William Tivol) writes:

|> 	An intermediate position would be to fund core facilities for many
|> researchers for lab animals and space shuttles, and then fund researchers
|> according to track record.  I, myself, do my work within a biotechnological
|> resource funded by NIH to be used by both in-house and outside researchers.
|> Anyone with a project which requires our facilities can come and use them
|> for free (of course, the researcher must pay travel and food/lodging costs,
|> but we can do preliminary investigating before this to see if the project
|> will be acceptibly served by the resource).
|> 				Yours,
|> 				Bill Tivol

Ellis Golub                            Phone: (215) 898-4629
Biochemistry Department                FAX:   (215) 898-3695
University of Pennsylvania             ellis at
School of Dental Medicine             
4001 Spruce Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6003

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