APA-NEWSWEEK: Science Funding

Alexander Berezin berezin at MCMAIL.CIS.MCMASTER.CA
Wed Feb 21 12:48:42 EST 1996



Dear George (Carter):

While I generally agree with much what you say about
the individual responsibility vs gov't, etc., I am
compelled to make several (I believe, importnat) 
qualifications on the points where you mention 
the research funding aspects.

Please, see below. 
Alex Berezin     

**********************************
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
**********************************

On Wed, 21 Feb 1996, George M. Carter wrote:

> bhml at iquest.net wrote:
> 
> >Bert Gold <bgold at itsa.ucsf.edu> wrote:
> >>Netters,
> >>
> >>Apparently there is alot of delusion in America right now;
> >>a belief that our communal problems can be solved by individual
> >>acts, which do not involve changes in our social/economic relationships.
> >>
> 
> >Although not directly stated, is it correct to
> >assume that you mean that the gov't must spend
> >more $ to address these problems?  Would you work
> >an extra job to pay for it?
> 
> First: Go Bert!  I don't know what relevance this has to this
> newsgroup, but I agree wholeheartedly.
> 
> Second, Tomlin's post seems to have misunderstood Bert.  He is not
> denying that individual acts (and local community organization/work)
> are essential to solving our nation's (and globe's) ills.  But to
> pretend governments do not have a role in the lives of their people is
> just baloney.  If we all had our druthers about where taxes went, I
> sure as hell wouldn't put it all in a bloated, wasteful military that
> does more to screw its human resources while idolizing idiotic
> technologies.  Rather: cut their budget a lot more (and clean up the
> fraud and waste elsewhere in the system) and provide better education,
> better schools, 

> more funding for solid scientific research.

BEREZIN:

Although the above seems almost uncommentable, it would 
be a serious aberration to dump the main problem of the 
reserach funding on feds (both in USA and Canada).

The MAIN problem is within the research community itself,
in the way how it distributes funding among its members
on the basis of arbitary and secretive 'peer review' 
with an inevitable result that all sorts of cliques and
old boy networks end up dominating fundamental science. 

Public should make no mistake with whom to place the
prime blame. SCIENTISTS (not politicians !) should
stop playing idiotic games of 'anonymous peer review' and 
lead the campaign to reform discriminative, highly 
overcometitive funding policies of NSF/NSERC/NIH/MRC/ 
(etc) towards "fund researchers, not proposals" principle.

We will NOT get anywhere far by begging politicians 'to
give us more money for fundamental research' unless 
WE OURSELVES (not 'them') will first solve the distribution
problem, or at least show convicing efforts in this 
direction.  

> 
> Government can do more to FIX the safety net that provides for
> healthcare and  housing and so forth.  These are essential, civilized
> amenities enjoyed by every other first world nation.  Rather, we
> merely get the slash and burn ideology that borders on sending us
> careening into a fascist state (witness Buchanan's meteoric rise,
> despite is outrageous bigotries).
> 
> Finally, the US can no longer afford to pretend that it is alone in
> the world.  If capitalism survives by worshipping the profit line,
> whose to say that, as labor goes, so will research?  When other
> countries provide cheaper labor of ANY kind, you can be damn sure the
> fat cat CEO's, making absurd amounts of money, will go elsewhere for
> the work.  

BEREZIN:
The above is equally applicable to 'fat cats' of 
grantsmanship establishement. There are many overblown
research emrpires of ca. dozen research slaves run by 
a SINGLE fat cat professor on sevearal hundred thousands
annual budget while many others, often not at all less 
creative and deserving researchers, have to pay FAX bills 
and reprint costs with their personal money (people with 
zero funding: in Canada ca. 1/3 of all research-active 
professors).   

> This is why a global policy that addresses a bare minimum
> of worker's rights is essential for ALL people that work.  

BEREZIN:

This is preciesly what we are advocating in a form of
basic resaerch grants to all publicationally-active
university professors. De-fatting of just ONE fat
cat by 50 % (or perhaps even 30 %) can give basic 
grants to perhaps 10 unfunded professors.

> leader, the US could do much to shape that policy if it wasn't a
> government that merely preached the joys of greed.  Why? Because this
> policy will backfire.  If the workers who create products are also the
> consumers that keep the fatcats happy, and the workers get screwed on
> wages and can't afford to purchase products, the economy crumbles.
> Hello?
> 
> And me personally?  I do a lot! I don't need to prove myself to you or
> anyone--but understanding the importance of personal responsibility
> does NOT preclude the necessity of social responsibility.  Keeping our
> children fed, housed, educated, healthy.  Keeping our air, land and
> water in decent shape. Finding renewable sources of energy.  These are
> products of policy at the individual, corporate and government level.
> 
> The destroyer?  Corruption.  Human greed.  How do we solve this?  It's
> the age old question that needs to be addressed--and I HOPE this is
> NOT the right place to discuss it!  (Unless Michael Crichton wants to
> do a fantasy on gene-splicing out the nefarious dark side of
> humanity!!)

BEREZIN:
Yes, Corruption and Human Greed. But the problem what
(and WHERE) WE (scientists) can do something about 
it. Somebody great (who ?) said 'think globally, act locally'.
That's what we should do. Transition to a more open, more
equitable and more accountable funding system in science
will be undoubtedly good example for the rest of the
society. Converesly, if we fail on this, all our blamings 
of 'them' (politicians, scienifically illiterate public,
etc, etc) are pointless and hypocritical. 

> 
> 		George M. Carter
> 
> 
> 
> 



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