Fleecing...(Research Funding)

Alexander Berezin berezin at MCMAIL.CIS.MCMASTER.CA
Mon Mar 25 09:55:42 EST 1996

On Mon, 25 Mar 1996 KKASHA at CROP.UOGUELPH.CA wrote:

> Larry:  I guess I have had enough of this NSERC bashing.  The point 
> is that there are exceptions to all things and do we thinly spread 
> the little money there is is the hope that we might occassionally hit 
> an exception? 

> NSERC is funding by the normal curve, cutting off 
> higher than the 5% level of course, but funding the quality that is 
> known to be there and giving the new people on the block a chance to 
> show what they can do.

Yes, 5 % cut off level will be appropriate. At least (almost)
all people will have some basic grant. Even grant of $ 5,000 per
year makes a huge difference for many researchers. But present 
cut-off level of 30 % in totally unaccepatble. Are you
saying that 1/3 of Canadian professors is dead wood ?

>  It is not alot of money and is spread thinly 
> around but I think they get the most for their funding doing it this 
> way.  Just because you have gone through the supervised training does 
> not mean that you will be innovative and productive on your own.  

We are NOT talking of people who 'just got supervised
training' and nothing after. We are talking about massive 
NIL-ling of people with many dozens of papers (often 
in 100+ range) and many years of valuable experience. There 
is no justification for leaving these people with no grant

> The competition also keeps you on your toes and pushing rather 
> than just letting things happen when and if they might.
> As I have said before, I was also sceptical of the system until I 
> served on a Selection Committee and went through the wrenching 
> experience of trying to make the choices of where people fit on the 
> curve.  I would much rather have it this way with the limited funds 
> that NSERC has. 

> I agree wholeheartedly that we desperately need more 
> funds for research and find the cut off level much too high but that 
> level is not because others are being overfunded.  

So, what are is your objection against funding on
sliding scale ? Table of awards shows a lot of grants
in science and engineering is at $ 50 K and up level.
Reduction of the above-median grants by only 10 % will
be sufficient to fund almost all NIL-ed on a sliding 
scale dropping cut off rate from 30 % to 5 %. I can provide
more detailed estimates, if asked.

> The Committees 
> that I saw in action were very good scientist with a very sincere, 
> open and honest approach to a very difficult task with guidelines 
> that made sence in view of the funding situation.  The gripping that 
> I see you following is not good for the people involved or the 
> science in this country.  You need criticism but also a positive 
> attitude to make a go of things.  

> Nothing is perfect but the NSERC 
> system is recognized world-wide as one of the top systems and 
> deservedly so. 

I am often hear the above claim. And often ask people
for any tangible proof of this. So far, no one came up
with any. Please give a reference on just a single 
FOREIGN article analysing NSERC system in details and
praising it. If this system is so good why not the whole 
world is rushing to adopt it ?

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

> Ken

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