FEDERAL FUNDING CAPITATION MAXIMUMS

Bert Gold bgold at itsa.ucsf.edu
Sun Dec 31 10:27:20 EST 1995


The E. coli genetics stock center at Yale, the mutant mouse collection
at Jackson Labs in Bar Harbor, Maine and the American Type Culture Collection
in Rockville, Maryland are all examples of HIGHLY CAPITATED, FEDERALLY
FUNDED, CENTRALIZED facilities which work!

In our discussions of budget reforms, none of us suggesting that the
wherewithal to keep these strategic facilities functioning be removed.

Nor are we suggesting that the ability to purchase DNA synthesizing
machines, DNA sequencing machines, confocal microscopes, plaque and
colony picker robots be made impossible by new rules.  (Although,
I must confess, I believe that there is currently some EXCESS
CAPACITY in this regard; EVERY CITY DOES NOT NEED SEVERAL CONFOCAL
MICROSCOPES, just as it does not need several X-ray diffraction
machines or NMRs (There are at least 5 confocals, 4 X-ray diffraction
machines, and 5 NMRs in Philadelphia alone)).

What Alex and I appear to be in agreement on is that there are too
many cottin' pickin' investigators at the top of biology, who have
MILLIONS OF DOLLARS IN FEDERAL GRANTS IN THEIR CONTROL, who are not
running institutes of the size of JACKSON LABS, who list themselves
at 5% time committment on each one, and who thereby are using up
all the possible funding for YOUNGER COLLEAGUES.

BELIEVE ME, THERE ARE MANY OLDER INVESTIGATORS WHO ARE NOT
ACTING RESPONSIBLY WITH RESPECT TO THEIR FUNDING in the 
following sense:

They are not providing mentorship for their post-docs. and
graduate students by teaching them to become financially
independent.  This is a part of science too!

I am certain of what I am saying:  I had lunch the other
day with a former tenured professor at a top 5 medical school
who has recently taken an industrial vice-president job.
He maintains NIH funding and an academic appointment with
a functional lab at a hospital accross town.  He told me
that during his 20 year medical school career he had
"socked away" about $ 1 million in what he called 'endowment'
by underspending his GRANTS.  THIS, GUYS, IS NOT AND HAS
NEVER BEEN, LEGAL!!!!!  (Yet, I am certain that it is common
practice).  It is not HEALTHY, UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES FOR
US YOUNGER PEOPLE, because, IT MEANS THAT MONEY WHICH IS ALLOCATED,
AND NOT SPENT, IS NOT AVAILABLE TO US NEEDY GUYS OUT HERE.

Now, we need a rational cap on federal funds allocatable to
one human being as PI in this country.  I don't know what the
number should be:  As Alex has pointed out; he is not certain
either.  I have a feeling $300,000 per year would be sufficient;
with some method to waive the limit under EXTRAORDINARY conditions,
but the bottom line is:  GREED IS NOT GOOD and there has been
TOO MUCH GREED, and not enough ALTRUISM being practiced in
biology for quite a while now.

It is time for the nice guys to stop finishing last.

Bert Gold
University of California
San Francisco

HOME INSTITUTION OF BOTH THE DIRECTOR OF NIH AND PRESIDENT OF 
THE NATIONAL ACADEMY OF THE SCIENCES, WHO, THOUGH BOTH IN
WASHINGTON, MAINTAIN THEIR LABS AT UCSF.



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