More $ for research ?

Patrick O'Neil patrick at corona
Mon Jun 12 23:24:45 EST 1995



On 12 Jun 1995, Alexander Berezin wrote:

> 
> Dear Dr. Burton:
> 
> Of course, I agree with what you say about the public image of
> science. However, I strongly believe that the prime guilt for
> this is OURS, not the "public" or the politicians. We can't
> too much succeed in promoting our cause unless we do 
> something truly serious to mitigate the internal warfare
> scientists carry over each other in the form of (unnecessary
> brutal) funding competition, and amaizingly hostile 

OK...YOU can let your research ideas float freely in the ether so that 
other researchers can take them and get funding for research YOU could 
otherwise do.  There is competition in funding because there are limits 
to money available (everyone get that through your heads).  With limited 
monies, you HAVE to set up a system by which to be selective in what gets 
funding.  End of story.  

The NIH and NSF system does not just dump research proposals that are not 
going to get funded THIS time around in the "cold day in hell" file 
(unless it REALLY deserves to be in there, like with telepathy crapola as 
an extreme example).  They actually send it back with SUGESTIONS and 
COMMENTS so that the proposer can fix the weaknesses and resubmit and 
perhaps get funding.  No one is better suited to judge a research 
proposal than a jury of SCIENTIFIC peers.


> 
> Unless we stop (or at least significantly slow down)
> the internal grantsmanship wars, we have very little
> chance to improve our image and social lot, neither,

I am truly unaware of any bad image concerning grants and funding.  The 
only bad press I have seen is concerning blatant unethical LYING in 
presenting data (make that false data) or the stealing of other 
researcher's data.


> I believe, we de
> In physics, I can give you also quite long list of
> the same effect - enough to mention (completely
> undeserved, in my opinion) witch-hunt treatment which
> Pons and Fleishmann have received for daring to
> announce something (cold fusion) at odds with the
> common paradigm (and the intersts of "hot fusion" 
> establishment). 

Funny you should mention Pons and Fleishmann.  They are a MAJOR 
embarrassment here at the University of Utah.  Infamous and, indeed, wrong.
OF COURSE they should not have received any funding, especially after 
their results just didn't pan out in replicative studies ("Err...it was 
the water, yeah, the water.  You have to use exactly the right water.  
No?  Ok, ok, its the impurities in the metals used, yeah, THAT'S it.  You 
just got to get exactly the right impurities...No?  Err...").  

Again, I must ask the bitter-person question:  What, have you proposed
cold fusion research that didn't get funding so now you are bitter and
feeling gyped?  All you really have to do is propose reasoned research or
rewrite the proposal along the lines of the comments and suggestions
provided by the granting agencies.  You will NEVER get an institute like
Howard Hughs Medical Institute to fund bullcrap research, for instance, so
quit dreaming.  They are NOT your basic charity.  They want results, not
goofy wishes. 

Reality check:  physics was big news during the Cold War and during times 
of lower or ignored budget deficits.  No more.  Rightly or wrongly, there 
is simply no great political drive to do lots of physics.  It may be 
unfortunate but the hands of funding go where there is political will 
to direct it.  In the overall scheme of things, people want cancer cures or 
HIV treatments, not supercolliders and subatomic particle information, at 
least not in a tight money situation.

Patrick



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