Lottery or Meritocracy?

Robert White rwhite at
Sat Jun 8 15:49:24 EST 1996

In <Pine.A32.3.93.960608112744.38132A-100000 at> Bert Gold <bgold at> writes:
>The HIGHEST LEADERS OF AMERICAN SCIENCE have justified to me the
>$ 22,000,000 we send to CANADA.  They are foolish.  The Canadians
>don't need the money that much!  Our young scientists need it more!


Wise Canadians rarely give a damn about anything American let alone
your thirsts for greed, but if your country is filtering in 22 million
and the deal has been signed you are SOL my friend. Wise Canadians
don't part with their money like Americans do!


p.s. hell.... our government accountants hang on to money better
     than a pit bull terrier with a steak in its jaws. You don't
     stand a chance in hell of ever seeing your money again, Bert.
     Better luck next time, Eh.


>Read the words of the wise Canadian below and see if there
>is anything in them from which we can learn.

> 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

>---------- Forwarded message ----------
>Date: Fri, 7 Jun 1996 12:01:41 -0400
>From: "L.A. Moran" <lamoran at>
>To: bgold at
>Subject: Re: Eyes on the Prize
>Newsgroups: bionet.general,,,talk.politics.medicine

>In article <Pine.A32.3.93.960606120045.173544B-100000 at> you write:

>>NIH has just announced its plans for a MAJOR OVERHAUL of the RESEARCH
>>Grant allocation system.

>As a Canadian I've been staying out of this discussion because I really
>can't comment on the American system. (As an aside, there are times when
>I wish that you Americans would realize that these newsgroups are not
>exclusively for Americans. Why not create a separate news group that
>concentrates on issues that only concern those in the USA?)

>>Kieth Yamamoto, here at UCSF, is already objecting and has apparently
>>drafted his own plan.

>Keith and I are friends from way back - say "hello" to him from me. If you
>are going to continue this on bionet.general then why not ask him to post
>his plan as well.

>>I have spoken with literally hundreds of scientists over the past two
>>years about this issue.  Many of the most prominent have confided to
>>me that the current system is unfair, unworkable and unreasonable but
>>have told me that 'human nature' prevents a change for the better.
>>Nonetheless, many have shared their very best suggestions and thoughts
>>with me. I doubt, however, that I have heard every possible salutary
>>suggestion for changing the current system...  
>>Therefore, I would like to invite you
>>to send me your very wisest thoughts about how we can change the system
>>for the allocation of research funds in the US so that our children can
>>again begin to prosper from the intellectual harvest of plenty of our

>If you don't mind an outsiders opinion I'll be happy to add my two cents.

>It seems to me that some of the problems could be seen in a different light
>if you consider how some other countries differ. For example, in Canada
>we are not allowed to pay ouselves from a research grant. Our salary is
>the responsibility of the University or hospital that hired us. This means
>that Canadian researchers are somewhat more at liberty to take risks
>witout jeopardizing their families and it means that we are somewhat less
>inclined to compromise our principles for the sake of income.

>The other major difference concerns infrastructure or overhead. In Canada
>the grants from federal agencies do not allow for overhead. It is assumed
>that the University or hospital will provide the appropriate level of
>support. What this means is that there is no pressure on us to bring in
>money simply to help the University or Department pay for infrastructure.
>I'm not exactly sure what the effect of this difference is in the long run
>but it is something to consider.

>In Canada you can lose a grant and still make valuable contributions to
>the mandate of the University. For example, I gave up my grants three
>years ago to concentrate on writing textbooks. This would be much harder
>to do in the top American schools. Perhaps part of the problem is that
>there is this overwhelming pressure to get a large grant in order to pay
>for the groceries and maintain some level of status in the community.
>There should be respected alternatives that promote scholarship and
>reward teaching. In the absence of alternatives there seems to be a
>tendancy to make whatever compromises are necessary in order to get that
>grant. If Keith, for example, lost his major grant for any significant
>number of years then he would probably feel that he should resign. I doubt
>if Bruce would have forced him out while he was chairman but I don't know
>who is currently in charge. I think that people like Pat O'Farrel and Tom
>Kornberg feel this pressure intensely, not to mention the younger ones
>at UCSF. So, as an uninformed (sic.) outsider, part of the problem seems
>to be of your own making. You have created a monster by making such a big
>deal out of "success" in publishing lots of papers to the exclusion of
>anything else. 

>Larry Moran

   ----------------------------------------- Carleton University ----------
               Robert G. White               Dept. of Psychology   
                                             Ottawa, Ontario. CANADA
   INTERNET ADDRESS ----- rwhite at ------------------- E-MAIL

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