Research Funding & Public Image

alex taylor ataylor at
Wed Jul 12 14:26:43 EST 1995

In article <Pine.3.89.9507101618.A17380-0100000 at>,
Alexander Berezin <berezin at MCMAIL.CIS.MCMASTER.CA> wrote:
>On Mon, 10 Jul 1995, alex taylor wrote:
>> 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). 
	There are some complex issues that a layperson will not
understand regardless of the intentions, skill and clarity of the
educator. Furthermore the attempt to explain often results in the
layperson aquiring misleading conceptions. It is a fallacy that complex
issues can always be understood without a minimum amount of both
background and effort (something that many undergraduates don't seem
to understand :-) )

>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.

Agreed. Sadly scientists have allowed the process people (public admin.
hacks) to take over and no longer have much decision making power in
Canada with respect to science funding policy.

>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.

Pleas to maintain funding have no chance at all in the current fiscal
climate regardless of how they are packaged. Otherwise I agree with the
points you make.

 > >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. 

Yep. In fact I would argue that it already has done irreparable damage.
The NRC for instance is more or less defunct as an institution.

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.

All of the parties involved have responsibility. I refuse to absolve
politicians of responsibility for public policy -- the very idea is
absolutely ludicrous. Most of the bad decisions relating to science are made
because of other political contingencies. I call your attention to the
partial replacement of the Science Council of Canada with the National
Advisory Board for Science, noting as I do so that former was somewhat
independant and highly critical of government policy while the latter is
quite tractable and totally uncritical.

>Alex Berezin         
>> Alex Taylor
>> ataylor at

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