Some Humility, Please...

Marc Andelman drgonfly at
Sun Jun 2 20:46:16 EST 1996

> Bert wrote:
> Monica Seles' stabbing and Nancy Kerrigan's thrashing were each angry, 
> jealous responses to competition which we all witnessed, in disbelief,
> in the past few years.
>Hi Bert.  Some good ideas here.  However, please allow me to
come to the defense of Tonya Harding.  If only we had someone
like her to do for science what she did for ice skating.  She
took a prissy, snot nosed sport, and, by sheer dint of awesome
sluttyness, dragged it into the mud.  If that is not admirable,
what is?

ut ideas?  

> It is a SIN that one company, Affymatrix, Inc., is receiving MILLIONS
> this year from NIH. (No matter how good their silicon wafer technology,
> they should seek and receive much NON-governmental funding).

> This is a sin.  Here is a clear case of well connected people
using the establishment to steal from everyone else.  I know
for a fact that neither myself nor my offspring are smart
enough to get into the fancy schools these people went to, so
god help us when people like that have so much power that we
need their permission to take a (Expletive deleted).  However, the 
saving fact is,anyone in a garage can conduct research more 
efficiently than a bureucracy.  
Cash can choke a company as much as enable it.

> Similarly, it is a SIN that both Commercial Venture Capitalists, who behave
> like cattle in the way they move in herds, and Non-Profit
> Organizations, who are not substantially better,  RARELY have the spine to provide anything more than FOLLOW-ON funding for that initiated by NIH or NSF.

> Venture capitalists, academics, and goverment are all birds
of a feather.  They are not really risk takers.  Note how
biotech firms are generally funded by a consortium of investors.
This shares the risk. To do otherwise would be like eating
a whole pizza for yourself. They do not care if nine out of
ten start ups go down the tubes, only if one hits.   There is
also real market value in cachet, which is why many start ups
advertise how many Ph.D's and young dynamic people there are
wearing blue jeans, etc..    However, these people are 
doomed to invest in trendy ventures and cannot 
really partake of the truly imaginative  ventures
that are available to anyone who wants to risk his/her money.
Wide swaths of industry have settled into a sort of contentment,
with no innovation for decades.  This is the perfect situation
for a small time entreprenuer.  By the very nature of a 
stagnant industry, it is not sexy, and is therefore closed to
competition from big moneny, academia, and government. It does
not matter how important it is for this to be true. Anyone
trying this will be competing with an industry that has no
R&D overhead. A quantum improvement or high grading the market
is the answer.

> Third, we must allow investigators, at all stages of their career, and
> even without institutional affiliation, to apply for small grants,
> perhaps under $15,000 per year, using abbreviated applications,
> for exploratory, highly speculative research.

As you may have guessed, you hit on one of my pet peaves.  Maybe
if a Ph.D. program were part  "rotations" and a
requirement of part blue sky
research, we could at least establish such a precedent.

Marc Andelman

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