Grantsmanship

Alexander Berezin berezin at MCMAIL.CIS.MCMASTER.CA
Wed Nov 15 10:24:13 EST 1995


EXPLOITATION IN SCIENCE

Despite all the efforts of grantsmanship barons
to downplay the issue of the exploitation of
young scientists, the voices of protest are 
growing.

Recent column in New Scientist (14 October 1995,
p. 14, see also Editorial on p. 3) titled "Stuck on
the Road to Nowhere" gives numerous examples of
cynicism and cheat young scientists (predominantly, 
postdocs) are facing from the members of the 
establishment: 

 "Hire 'em young, stack 'em high, then fire 'em".

The short-termism, PhD overproduction, and lack of 
true prospect is the inevitable result of the major
evil of the present NIH/NSERC/NSF..... funding system,
namely the fact that research grants allow professors
to HIRE whatever cheap labour they wish. The vicious
spiral of OVERfunding combined with publish-or-perish
hysteria (... more [ largely trivial ] papers,
more grant money, more postdocs, even more [ same ] 
papers, even more grant money, even more postdocs,
etc .... ad infinum .....) can only be broken if: 

(1) funding to postdocs (and graduate students) goes
directly to THEM, not to supervising professors 
[ professor's job is the RESEARCH ADVISORY ], so
THEY (students and posdocs) have the freedom to chose 
with whom they want to work on the basis of common 
scholarly interests, not on the basis that so-and-so
prof has pre-assigned grantsmanship funds, 

(2) there should be no rewards (administrative,
promotional, etc) to professors producing hoards of
PhD students well above the replacement level (which 
is no more than one PhD student per prof in about
every 10 years). PhD conveyor belt was acceptable 
(and even desirable) in the time of exponential growth 
of science. However, now, when science went to a 
Steady State (see John Ziman, Prometheus Bound, 1994), 
Olympic scorings on a number PhD students produced 
by a single professor is nothing short of a socially
irresponsible behavior.

(3) basic grants to professor should be awarded on the
basis of a sliding scale (robust ranking by several 
parameters) with an average of about $ 20,000 per prof 
per year. Hiring a research personnel by specific 
professors at universities should be (gradually, of
course) phased out and eventually outlawed. Technicians 
should be hired by the Departments (not by the specific
professors) with full employment rights, not on birds
rights as many of them now.

(4) for as long as the system works on a principle
of competitive funding of "proposalas" (instead of
funding the RESEARCHERS [ profs AND posdocs INDEPENDENTLY ],
it will always maintain its false claim that its prime
problem is in the alleged "undefunding", while in reality 
the opposite is true and system is OVERfunded to the 
point where it supports the vicious spilral of 
overproduction (of papers and PhDs) in the interest of
grantsmanship elite. Make no mistake about it.   

Read also in the same issue of New Scientist
"Is Your Publication Really Necessary ?" by
Arturo Sangalli (Forum. p. 52).       

**********************************
Alexander A. Berezin, PhD
Department of Engineering Physics
McMaster University, Hamilton,
Ontario, Canada, L8S 4L7
tel. (905) 525-9140 ext. 24546
e-mail: BEREZIN at MCMASTER.CA
**********************************






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