Alexander Berezin berezin at MCMAIL.CIS.MCMASTER.CA
Fri Mar 29 23:19:21 EST 1996

On Fri, 29 Mar 1996, David Valentine wrote:

> Bert Gold wrote:
> > 
> > ...what percentage of our tax dollars going to research actually
> > get to the bench for equipment, supplies and a bench scientist?
> > 
> > Not Administrators.
> > Not 'Publication Costs'.
> > Not Deans or Department Heads.
> > Not Academic Professors' Salaries (who often don't work at the bench).
> > Not 'Meetings'.
> > Not Review Group Administrators at NIH.
> > Not 'Study Section Meetings'.
> > Not Airfares for Reviewers or site-visitors.
> > Not lecturers 'honorariums'.
> > Not siphoned into non-sanctioned (often chair-initiated) research.
> > 

>  But how much money actually gets spent on what is intended?
>  Having been a soft money (i.e. 100% grant funded) scientist 
> for the past few years, I've developed some opinions along these lines.  
> I agree that administrators mostly get in the way--if I don't 
> produce from my research funds, then I won't get any more.  
> That is the most important form of accountability.  

> But research conducted in a vacuum is worthless. Without meetings, 
> many of our best ideas never would have come up.  

> Without external review, fundamental omissions or errors would 
> not be corrected until it's too late.  And without 
> publication, the research might as well never have been conducted 
> because nobody will know about it.  

It is very important here that you specify what kind of
'external review' you are talking about. The ONLY genuine,
honest (and desirable) form of external review is an OPEN
(an unrestricted) criticism of the work which is ALREADY
performed (and published) by all those who have interest
in a particular work. Call it 'peer review', if you like,
assuming by peers all members of user community (those who
care to comment/criticise the work), but it must be open
and undiscriminative by any pre-categorization [ yes, there
is inevitable some amount of b/s in a published criticism,
but this is a lesser evil in regards to the benefits ]

However, the 'peer review of proposals' (i.e. undone work)
is an UTTER NONSENSE to which the majority segment of
the research community stubbornly subscribes itself
to its own detriment. To 'peer review the undone work' makes 
about as much sense as writing a review of a yet-unwritten 
book. Scientists should be given benefit of doubt of what
they are doing and THEN assessed by the resuls (and 
results only, not proposals-promises). 

It is a must that sci.community develpes a way to operate
without 'proposals' (and 'peer review' of them). Otherwise,
further stagnation and decay of science is highly likely.

> Transmission of ideas and results through lectures and 
> symposia is another valuable and efficient form of 
> communication. 

And it will be far (FAR) more efficicient if peer review
of papers and conference proceedings will be replaced by
the system of OPEN post-comments. Present publication 
technology allows EASILY publish ALL submitted materials 
(subjected only to the most basic relevance check).

> And finally, not all academic professors are deadwood 
> buffoons parasitizing productive bench scientists.  
> In fact, few are.  Their (our) role in university research is 
> central, from generating research ideas and proposals to 
> experimental design to data analysis to publication.  

I think, most agree with this. I do. Personally, I 
have NEVER seen a single 'totally useful' professor.
Not all gold/silver/bronze, but all are functional. 

> Just because a ship's captain doesn't shovel coal 
> into the boiler doesn't mean she shouldn't get paid 
> for her efforts.  So which of these are items for 
> which research money is not intended?  
> And how should they be paid for?

The main challenge is to (gradually) restructure
the system in such a way as to eliminate financial
subordination of one catregory of scientists (grad.
students, postdocs, res.assocaites, etc) to another
category (professors hiring them on grant money
which they believe is 'their' [ while, in fact, this
is taxpayers money ]). This produces a class division 
of the scientific community on patricians and plebs. 
This deplorable practice must be stopped.

Alex Berezin 

> dv
> --
> David W. Valentine [davev at NREL.ColoState.EDU]
> Natural Resource Ecology Laboratory, NESB B219
> Colorado State University
> Fort Collins, CO  USA  80523-1499
> Voice 970/491-0240, FAX 970/491-1965

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