A SEA CHANGE

Bert Gold bgold at itsa.ucsf.edu
Fri Jun 7 16:27:50 EST 1996


I'm posting exerpts of my discussion with Art Sowers yesterday.

We agree on much!

Date: Thu, 6 Jun 1996 19:27:56 -0400 (EDT)
From: "Arthur E. Sowers" <arthures at access.digex.net>
To: Bert Gold <bgold at itsa.ucsf.EDU>

On Thu, 6 Jun 1996, Bert Gold wrote:

> 
> OK.
> 
> For your eyes, cause I don't want to discourage anybody,
> 
> 1) FEDERAL FUNDING CAPITATION MAXIMUMS
>    (FYI, inside info. -- these have been discussed inside NIH at a
>     level of $ 500,000 per PI per year; it seems reasonable, however,
>     having spoken to several inside study sections that $ 300,000 -
>     $ 350,000 per PI per year might be sufficient, even for some
>     of our richest investigators (after all, they all get Howard Hughes'
>     and Macarthurs etc. as well...)).

All a faculty member needs is his salary and one postdoc and one tech. At
most that can average about 125K plus fringes, supply money (10-20K) and
overhead, or another 60K roughly. Thats like 200K. If they guy wants more,
then he can go out and "bite and scratch" for more. Or, cozy up to
colleagues and pool resources.
 
> 2) Signed Grant Reviews:  It seems ridiculous that you can be torpedoed
>    by your competitors for money, but it is still true, and will be under
>    new NIH rules (although I've not yet read them in unerring detail).

Better yet. Have rebuttals to review processes. Have real appeals.

> 3) Mentorship within study sections:  My friends tell me that in the
>    study sections they are in NOONE KNOWS WHAT GOOD SCIENCE IS!!!

Better: have after the fact review. A guy gets asst. prof. position
someplace and AUTOMATICALLY gets his 200K. After 3-4 years, let the panel
see what he did with the money. If the guy did nothing, then bomb his
renewal. That way, there is a 90% success on renewal instead, as it is
now, a 10% success. 

Universities should have a federal rule that they cannot recruit faculty
faster than inflation X existing faculty.

>    They are good with techniques, and want to apply them as conservatively
>    as possible, but counter-intuitively, the younger the people on the
>    study section, the more conservative and critical they apparently are:
>    SO, one recommendation is that there be ONE National Academy Member per
>    study section (Someone who actually knows what good science is, to 
>    provide a leader and role model, and hopefully wise old bird).

Good science really does not matter anywhere as much as the fact that 90 %
of the work of writing grants ends up wasted (because its rejected). 

Make the success rate 90% and let everyone get one grant easily (and two
grants very hard) and you don't have to have as many study sections.

I think even good scientists can't tell good science untill after its
"out" in press and garners attention. And that does not mean that the
stuff that does not garner attention is bad, either.

> 4) Small Grants for Exploratory Research:  Little money should be
>    available to ANYBODY, just for the asking, if the ideas are good
>    enough:  This should dispense with some of the objections that no
>    brave ideas are ever funded anymore.

Throw it in with the "200K easy-automatic grant" and let the PI just
explore anyway.

> 5) Fund investigators, not institutions.  De Facto this has happened
>    anyway.  But large sums of money in recent years has been spent in
>    litigation by investigators against institutions and by institutions
>    against investigators when investigators choose to move their
>    laboratories.  Fights over equipment are common.  NIH wants not to
>    play a role in this, but guess who's money finances the lawsuits?
>    That's right, it's part of what the overhead goes for...

They probably cant do that leagally, but effectively yes, by juggling the
books. 

> 6) Even post-docs. have brains:  NIH currently forbids official
>    post-doctoral participation in ad hoc reviewing.  This disenfranchises
>    large numbers of scientists who can't secure a permanent position
>    through no fault of their own.  There is fundamentally no justification
>    for this, and it is not slated to change based upon the cursory look I
>    have just given to Wendy Baldwin's 30 page document.  

I think if the system were changed to the
"automatic-200K-grant-90%-renewal-system" this would not be a problem
anywhare.

> Well, that's enough for now.
> 
> Other ideas will be appreciated by me.

Also, I hate to say it, but they are going to have to CAP graduate student
admissions (just like medical schools do with med school apps).

> 
> As I mentioned to you, I tried to get what you've suggested on
> admissions caps going already, but the accreditation agencies
> aren't ready to hear it yet.

I fear a moderate "retreat" from higher education, anyway. Tuition is
going up too fast, admissions up too much, and a backlash is already
starting in. The administrators are all narrow-minded (censored).

>  Bert Gold, Ph.D.                         "Seeing much, Suffering much,
>  University of California, San Francisco   and studying much,
>  School of Medicine                        These are the three pillars
>  Program in Medical Genetics               of learning." -- Benjamin Disraeli
> 

Art Sowers comments contain no arrows, like this >





 Bert Gold, Ph.D.                         "Seeing much, Suffering much,
 University of California, San Francisco   and studying much,
 School of Medicine                        These are the three pillars
 Program in Medical Genetics               of learning." -- Benjamin Disraeli







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