Research Funding & Public Image

Alexander Berezin berezin at MCMAIL.CIS.MCMASTER.CA
Mon Jul 10 15:33:25 EST 1995

On Mon, 10 Jul 1995, alex taylor wrote:

( previous stuff on Ruttherford, etc. deleted)
> The assumption here is 1) that the work has immediate, obvious relevance 2)
> that directed or strategic research is an advisable use of public money,
> or even possible 3) it is indeed possible for a laymen to understand
> the work in a meaningful way -- once it has been boiled down
> into colloquial terminology.

Not at all. There are no such assumptions in making your
research goals understandable to non-scientists if genuinely
wish to do so (most don't). 
The issue of "obvious relevance" is by itself irrelevant for 
the clearness and understandability  - Rutherford (discoverer
of atomic nuleai) has another famous quote
"It is impossible to use atomic energy for any practical
purpose" ( was said just about 10 years before Hiroshima). 

> As it is not clear to me that any of
> these assumptions are tenable as broad generalizations, I am not sure that I
> agree that your proposal is a good idea -- although I concede that it is
> probably useful in the context of the department of health. 
> 	I also note that politicians and bureaucrats tend to believe whatever
> hypothesis is most convenient to them at the time, regardless of what their
> scientific advisors tell them. Therefore I am not sure that a
> laymens' abstract would really make any difference to public policy in
> any event, or that it would prevent further cuts to science funding.

What I am saying is that for as long as science community 
continues its INTERNAL grantsmanship feods, secretive peer review
of futurological promises ("proposals") and other nonsense (and
don't blame politins for it), it itself (sci. community) continues
to cut the branch on which it sits.

The reform should start from our side, not politicians. Why
politicians should continue funding something which is their
eyes (and in the eyes of the public) behaves itself as 
a wild Zoo ? Pleas to stop "funding cuts" have no serious chance
to be heard unless they are packaged with more equitable funding
schemes [ fund more researchers at LESSER levels and 
de-emphasize "fat cats" ]. This initiative has to come from
the community of researchers, not from the politicians.

But so far, all major funding councils (NSERC, NSF, NIH, etc)
push things in the opposite direction [ even more discriminaton
in funding and more "selectivity" ]. This will likely blast
the system within a few next years. The main responsibility for 
this will be with us (research community), not with "gready
politicians" or "scientifically illiterate public" which does
not appreciate the "beauty and/or usefullness of sicence".
It doesn't because none of these are here to be seen - they
don't survive granssmanship conformism.

Alex Berezin         

> Alex Taylor
> ataylor at

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