Funding: Capping, Sliding, Taxing
berezin at MCMAIL.CIS.MCMASTER.CA
Sun Dec 31 12:08:22 EST 1995
FUNDING : CAPPING, SLIDING and GRANT TAXING
I understand your concerns that (inevitably somewhat
arbitrary) capping of TOTAL dollars PER RESEARCHER is
problematic by several reasons, especially if it is a
kind of 'legislated from above' mechanism.
But we have to start somewhere to curtail abuses and
waste by 'fat cats' (Bert Gold just wrote about some
examples in a parallel posting) and get other capable
people from idling.
I think, we can find a good and constructive line of compromise
if we start fixing the system from below rather than from above.
It actually may turn out to be a much easier way. I mean, let's
see if a viable reform strategy can be suggested from introducing
sliding scale (or basic grant) for unfunded (but eligible for
their general record).
As you say (below) you see rationel behind sliding idea, but
your concern is where to get money. Here is my suggestion
(briefly) how we (or the 'system') can work:
OK, let us NOT insist on capping, to begin with. But introduce
some kind of (progressive, perhaps quadratic or whatever) tax on
grants (or perhaps, total research budget of a given prof), so
the proceeds will be use to fund 'slidings' on a low end. Actually,
Dick Gordon (Univ.of Manitoba) has mentioned earlier that
something of this kind has already been suggeted (attempted ?)
somewhere (likely of a partisan basis). Again, I stress that case
for (even baisc) funding has to be made, as we by all means don't
want the notions of entitlements or free rides. Also, you can
provide some flexibility for people in what they prefere to stress:
older people may want to put more stress on past record, while some
younger will likely chose to put more keen on 'advanced ideas'.
I believe that such system will have a clearly positive moral
impact on the community. Beside, it is not too stressy to introduce
physically, as it actually a ZERO-SUM reform (so we don't need
extra funds to introduce it). Furthemore, you have quite a
flexibility of running this principle at different scales, e.g.
inside a given Department AND/OR Faculty, University, granting
Such proposal, if clearly thought through, can be directly
presented to NIH/NSF/NSERC/MRC, etc. (and of course, be
published in press, otherwise no-one will move a finger).
On Sun, 31 Dec 1995, Ferland Louis H. wrote:
> On 30 Dec 1995, Alexander Berezin wrote:
> > Date: 30 Dec 1995 18:21:56 -0800
> > From: Alexander Berezin <berezin at mcmail.cis.mcmaster.ca>
> > To: bioforum at net.bio.net
> > Subject: Funding: Clarifications to Harriman
> > Clarifications of some points which I believe
> > result of misunderstanding (let it be my fault,
> > if you please) - Alex Berezin
> > On 30 Dec 1995, Gregory R. Harriman wrote:
> > >
> > > As we have discussed before but you conveniently ignore, biomedical
> > > research (even performed on a small scale by single investigators)
> > > frequently involves extraordinary expenses not usually found in other
> > > areas of research. Just the costs of maintaining a "knock-out" colony of
> > > mice can run thousands of $ per month. It would be helpful in these
> > > discussions if you realized that some fields of research by their nature
> > > cost more to accomplish than others.
> > BEREZIN:
> > Of course, I do realize this and have never said such stupidity
> > (unless somehow misphrased) that theoretical physics (or even
> > experimental physics)
> > have to face the same expenses as biomed (average difference
> > betwen EXPERIM.physics and biomed is perhaps factor of 5 to 10;
> > grants in theor.physics usually about 2-3 times lower than in
> > exper.physics, or at least should be).
> Alex, I still don't buy the idea of a fixed grant cap, even if variable
> from one area of research to the other to account for differences in cost
> between disciplines. My main reason is that such cost difference ratios
> can only be avereages and would not account for cost differences between
> projects WITHIN a discipline. You still would have people with good but
> expensive projects who would find themselves unable to get funding to
> develop their good ideas when they reach the fixed cap. A fixed cap
> simply cannot apply to all scientists, even within a given discipline,
> because the projects are MUCH too varied (and I mean both scientifically
> and budget-wise).
> And, as I wrote to you privately yesterday, if you add to this the notion
> of funding individuals according to their track record without judging the
> projects (as described in the two papers of yours you posted yesterday),
> you get even more of a mess: Not only is a detailed description of the
> proposed research -along with a detailed budget- necessary to determine
> how much money should be invested in it, but further, what do you make of
> the project whose cost does not match its author's track record's
> "monetary value"? Except for coincidences, what you propose would lead
> to SYSTEMATIC inadequacy between the funding required to accomplish a
> project and the amount allowed to do so.
> > (HARRIMAN):
> > > I suspect $100,000 per year for a physicist (especially a theoretical
> > > physicist) might be a very generous amount of money, since his/her only
> > > expense would be a salary.
> > BEREZIN:
> > Not even that (in Canada). I assume that professor is on 12-month
> > salary as a university teacher and all we are talking about is a
> > research grant. For theor.physicsist/ mathematician grant of
> > $ 8,000 US will be pretty reasonable, grant of $ 25,000 US per
> > year almost a bananza as theor.physicsts don't really need postdocs,
> > and can live up by grads and visitors (or be short term visitors
> > themselves).
> > Obviously, you will laugh at me if I suggest that $ 25,000 per
> > year is a reasonable biomedical grant (though for many those
> > who are denied prime funding even these kind of amounts makes sense
> > as it improves their possibility of teaming).
> I am becoming sensitive to your idea of the "sliding scale", i.e. not
> leaving most scientists grantless. The problem, of course, is where do we
> get the money to implement this?
> > (rest of this exchange is deleted as mostly redundant to the
> > above).
> > >
> > > Greg Harriman
> > >
> > >
> Dr. Louis H. Ferland
> Centre de Recherche, Hotel-Dieu de Montreal
> Dept de Nutrition, Universite de Montreal
> Phone: (514) 843-2757 FAX: (514) 843-2719
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