Research Administration/Grantsmanship

Alexander Berezin berezin at MCMAIL.CIS.MCMASTER.CA
Thu Mar 21 19:52:31 EST 1996

On 21 Mar 1996, Troy Shinbrot wrote:
> ...but I maintain it's a BAD IDEA for scientists to spread the word that
> research is overfunded. 

'BAD IDEA' for whom ? Please explain how the scientists (in Canada
about 1/3 of all profs) who do NOT have funding AT ALL (zero grants)
and who, nonetheless, get to manage their research (often successfully)
out of their personal salaries, how (and why) will all these people 
will suffer even more if (as the result of 'science is overfunded' 
campaign) the governmaents in USA and Canada drastically reduce 
funding for NIH, NSF, NSERC, etc. ?

On the contary, these people (unfunded professors and unemployed
scientists) will likely even benefit in a moral sense - they are 
not any longer need to be seen as parias. So, unless, funding on a 
sliding scale will be implemented (so ALL research-active [ qualified,
of course ] scientists get at least SOME [ let minimal ] grants) 
the voices of "OVER-funding" will only get stronger.  

> It is perfectly fine and correct though to
> observe that administrative expenses are excessive, that researchers get
> only a fraction of dollars allocated, etc.

Administrative overheads is SECONDARY problem to the PRIME,
which is a restoration of (basic) grants to completely unfunded.

[ snip ] 
> It is a simple and unavoidable truth that it will take
> hundreds of people to develop a cure for HIV, cancer or Alzheimer's

How do you know this ? Why all these can't be discovered by 
a single individuals (perhaps even, in some obscure lab, or
some 3rd world country) ? All history of science shows 
exactly the opposite to what you are saying. I don't know
of a single important discovery made by 'hunderds' of
people - they all invariably be made by SINGLE individuals,
or at most, by very small groups of 2-3 people (e.g. Crick 
and Watson - double helix, Bendroz and Muller - high temp.
superconductivity). And Galileo not seemed to be assisted 
much by crowds during his discoveriees. 

> I don't see anything wrong with choosing what data to present.  

But you have to ask yourself why they (scientists) are 
compelled to do it (choosing/trimming data) ?
Is this a 'looking good' philosophy (to get grant) ?

> I object to suggesting that investigators often fake data.

For as long as faking data is a successful strategy to make
a trick (get credentials, promotions, grants, etc) the 
ground-level assumption ('null hypothesis' as they call
it in philosophy) is:
"data faking is very common, but the overwhelming 
majority of it goes undetected"  

> I assume, by the way, that you meant to write 90th percentile,
> unless you mean to suggest that all grants should be funded.

percentiles (as well as proposals) is a sheer idiocity of
the present grantsmanship modus operandi. Alternative:
"fund RESEARCHERS, not proposals" (on a flexible ranking

> -Troy

More information about the Bioforum mailing list