The Fleecing of America by Biomedical Research Administration

Alexander Berezin berezin at MCMAIL.CIS.MCMASTER.CA
Tue Mar 19 18:08:53 EST 1996

On Tue, 19 Mar 1996, kevin wrote:

> In article <4in3sp$3e70 at>, hrubin at
> (Herman Rubin) wrote:
> > We do not need federal grants and contracts, although these will have
> > to be phased out gradually. 
> On what basis do you say this? Some research is very expensive. No
> university can build a very high energy physic machine.

On what basis you say that university SHOULD build high 
energy machine at first place ? Oh, mysteries of Nature 
and 'beuaty of science'.
Than seek the support from Natl.Endowmments for Arts.

> > The US did have an active mix of university,
> > industry, and private foundation research before WWII.  

> > The government
> > decided to get into it because they found that pure researchers are good
> > to have around in case of a crunch.

So, how it helps us now in the present job crunch ?
Perhaps Bill Gates can answer ?

> The government supported research in many ways before this. Research got
> more expensive. Also, if you look at the rate of scientific discovery
> since large research funds became available, the growth is astonishing. 

On the contrary. There is a singificant body of recent studies
confirming preciese the opposite: pace of discovery (per number
of researchers and per dollars invested) is going consistntly
down in virtually all areas (probable exception are humanities). 

> > University research used to be done mainly at research universities out
> > of their funds.  These were the strong private universities, and the state
> > and city universities which tried to keep comparable to them.  
> > 
> > The government funded, and indeed overfunded, research. 
> How do you conclude it was overfunded?

Because people (funded professors) have enough grant money
to hire cheap reasearch labor to do the work which they
(professors) are supposed to do themselves (instread of
attending International Conferences 10 times a year with
all 'refreshements' paid from grants). When professors
having small grants will do work themselves and attend
(average) 1-2 conferences a year, we may believe overfunding
is over. But not now.

> > But it did not
> > try to maintain the quality of the research institutions, but instead
> > paid the universities to have research, and supported research at non-
> > research universities.  The research atmosphere was destroyed,
> Where is the research atmosphere destroyed? It's more fertile and active
> than anytime in history.

This is a flat statement with no factual back-up whatsoever.
Equally well I can say that the atmosphere now is highly 
conformistic and suppressive for new ideas, and 'fertile' only
for crooks and copy-cats. 

> > together
> > with the research environment, by having grant and contract proposals;
> > these should be almost completely abolished as quickly as possible.
> And where is my university going to find the $120 million in federal
> dollars that would disappear? Private support has also been growing all
> this time.

> Is it your intention that we should simply abolish 70% of our
> research activity? What should we cut?

Start with $10,000 per years per prof research money and see how it 
works. It will work just fine.

> > >- they do their best to make sure investigators fill out application forms
> > >correctly. This is not always an easy job, and is absolutely thankless.
> > >But it keeps investigators from having their applications rejected on
> > >technicalities
> > 
> > So get rid of the technicalities!  Get rid of the application forms,
> > the "peer reviewing", etc.
> Will they just send out money or are you advocating that the government do
> nothing to encourage research?

Typical American abrerration: money is the main (actually, the
only) encoureger. Read more history of science to see how wrong
this point of view is. 

> > >- they do their best to help investigators identify and approach both
> > >government and non-government sources of funding for research
> > 
> > >In summary, research administrators _serve_ the scientific community by
> > >facilitating the funding of research. The need for research administrators
> > >has increased as government regulation of the conduct of research has
> > >increased. Who do you think handles the review of animal and human subject
> > >protocols, investigation of alleged misconduct, reporting of conflicts of
> > >interest, compliance with the drug-free workplace act, and all those other
> > >regs? Researchers are already spending an inordinate amount of time just
> > >writing grants - surely they don't want to take on all of these other
> > >responsibilities as well.
> > 
> > I suggest that far more quality research would be done, and with even less
> > misconduct, if the research atmosphere, with its relative lack of competition
> > for grant funding, would be restored.
> So how would you do this?

No to secretive (anonymous) peer review, to begin with.

> >  Every minute in writing and reviewing
> > grant proposals, in writing progress reports, in accounting for time, etc.,
> > is a minute not spent doing research.  The cost of these, and of the army of
> > clerks, accountants, and administrators, is money taken out of research.
> > As usual, it is the government which is the problem.  The situation has 
> > progressed to the point where the government cannot just bow out; no research
> > university has the resources to take over its own research.  We need to first
> > remove the government restrictions, and then provide the impetus to restore
> > academic, foundation, and industry research.
> There is a very strong impetus for these already. These funds have grown
> in parallel with government funding. 
> > BTW, medicine has a larger proportion of its research not government funded
> > than most other fields.  
> > 
> > >As for charges of corruption - it seems to me you're on shaky legal ground
> > >unless you've got some evidence to back up those charges.
> > 
> > The corruption is a system corruption.  It is putting bureaucrats in charge
> > of making research decisions.  
> By and large, research decisions are made by scientists, not bureaucrats.

Unfortunately for scientists, even bureaucrats do better
job on this than scientists themselves.

> > It is the monolithic allocation of funds.
> > Instead of a single government, even with a few agencies, doing this, we
> > need more than a hundred independent universities, industrial firms, and
> > foundations doing it.  And we do not need accountants to see that the 
> > money is spent on research; far more is now being spent on managers than
> > will be diverted.
> This is a plan to destroy research, not free it.
That only can be seen by allowing experimentation 
which present system stubbirnly refuses to do.

Alexander A. Berezin, PhD
Department of Engineering Physics
McMaster University, Hamilton,
Ontario, Canada, L8S 4L7
tel. (905) 525-9140 ext. 24546


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