Graduate Students

Alexander Berezin berezin at MCMAIL.CIS.MCMASTER.CA
Tue Nov 21 11:52:20 EST 1995

Reply to Joe Teodoro: G-students,
underfunding vs overfunding

On 21 Nov 1995, Joe Teodoro wrote:

> I must say that for once I agree with you Alexander.  The current trend of
> paying grad students through the operating grants is a very dubious.  In
> Canada both the Medical Research Council (MRC) and the National Cancer
> Institute have just this year eliminated their programs for DIRECT funding
> of grad students and moved to a system where professors apply for the
> funds instead.  It should be noted that with MRC only professors holding
> MRC operating grants can apply for MRC studentship money.  The motive for
> having such a system becomes apparent here.  When students apply for
> grants directly and recieve them on merit, they are free to take these
> grants where they wish and work with whom they wish.  In a system where
> grantsmen apply for studentships, the money is guaranteed to stay within
> the sphere of the granting agency's annointed few. 
> What is the cause of this trend?
> The explanation probably has more to do with shrinking budgets than you
> slavery hyperbole Alex.  With cuts across the board in almost all
> government funded (and private) reseach even the richest grantsman is
> feeling the pinch.
> Paying the professor and not the student is just another desperate measure
> for desperate times.  Granting agencies are protecting thier own.
> The solution?
> More money of course.

I agree with Joe that "graduate slavery" may (to some
extent, of course) involve hyberbolization and I am
not insisting on its paramountness - at least, the 
responses to the issue (from grad students) were
rather mixed. 

More important is to analyze your assumption that the
prime evil is the budget cuts and "underfunding". 
As I have said it earlier I don't see it happening, at 
least among those in Canada who are within the funding 
orbit of NSERC. The number of professors eligible for 
NSERC grants in Canada is about 10,000 (NSERC's figurs).
The budget is $ 400 M per year, i.e. $ 40,000 per prof 
per year.  About 1/3 of profs in science and engineering 
are unfunded (NIL awards). Next question is how much 
funding typical prof REALLY needs. My estimate (confirmed 
by many observation) that grant of $ 10,000 to 12,000 
(Can) per year is sufficient for at least 70 % (perhaps 
80 % or 90 %) of all profs, and this will allow to cover 
the baisics (computing, publishing, reasonable conferences
and visits, miscell, etc) and to carry 1 grad student 
how though has to have scholarship. Only quite few profs 
need higher grants, and this is still can be amply 
accomodated withing the above budget.        

I maintain that the FIRST problem to be addressed
is to return the majority of the so called "useless"
researchers (who define this ?), who nonetheless keep
doing research (and publish it) at their own expense
from their academic salaries (not tax-deductable)
into the funded community (1/3 unfunded rate is simply
unacceptably high). After that (and only after !) the
problem of overall budget can be meaningfully addressed. 
If yoy start from the latter, you always start from 
the wrong end. 

> Who will pay?
> No one.  Better get used to the system.
This is what we are saying by proposing 
RBMG (Research Base Maintenance Grants)
starting at the level of perhaps $ 5,000 per
year grant (sliding scale).

More information about the Bioforum mailing list