MISCONDUCT: GRANTSMANSHIP

Bert Gold bgold at itsa.ucsf.edu
Thu May 23 23:16:35 EST 1996


It is important that I verify all that Alex says below and
let you all know that copies of this communication have
been sent to both Dr. Varmus at NIH, Dr. Alberts at
the National Academy of the Sciences and Sue Gerbi
at Brown (Former President of ASCB, still quite involved,
and an officer of the American Association of Medical Colleges
in addition to her position as head of the department at Brown).

You see, I know all these people and what Alex says about
them is *sadly* true.

 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

Alexander Berezin (berezin at MCMAIL.CIS.MCMASTER.CA) wrote:


: On 23 May 1996, William Tivol wrote:

: [SNIP]

: > 
: > 	In particular, with a sliding scale for grants, there 
: > is too little to be gained--the grant would not be significantly 
: > increased--by buying influence (or threatening retaliation).  
: > Only in the competition-dominated system does influence play 
: > a possibly critical role for a researcher's career. 

: BEREZIN:

: This is likely the prime reason (fear to loose power of control)
: why the establishment adamantly opposes even the IDEA of 
: sliding scale and insists on sharp cut-off schemes (winners
: and loosers paradigm: Tonya Harding as a holy patron).
:  
: Even if token grants (say, $ 1,000) will be given instead
: zero (NIL awards) to those who are judged (by whom ?) to be 
: below the passing line ('non-competitive', if I correctly
: recall NIH slang), the threat of the errosion of the 
: grantsmanship power structure is very real : even a small 
: grant makes its reciepeient a 'grantee' and hence part of the 
: system. Than as a shareholder of the system (let minor) such 
: person has a legitimate voice and cummulatively all 
: these 'little people' may be quite a nuisance for the 
: grantsmanship/peer review mafia. So, its much better to
: keep then outside by giving them NIL. 

: I think, this is one of the major clues to undestand the 
: reasons why present NIH/NSF/NSERC+ system is so resistive 
: to even a hint of the departure from the winners-loosers 
: sacred faith. Incredibly, that people who operate such 
: archiconservative system call them themselves scientists 
: (and some may even believe that they are !).
:  
: (TIVOL)
: > 	Furthermore, no scientist--except one who has already 
: > done the work-knows exactly how the project will progress 
: > and what results will be obtained.  Therefore, when the 
: > inevitable surprize comes, the detailed plan should go right 
: > out the window.

: BEREZIN:

: Imagine that some advanced extraterrestrials will 
: develop an interest to study our 
: grantsmanship-proposals-peer/review system. What 
: their main puzzlement is likely to be ? They will 
: likely be astonished by 2 seemingly incompatible 
: facts:

: 1) 'scienists' [ judging from their REAL achivements ]
:    appear to be one of the the most (intellectually) 
:    advanced lifeforms on Earth,

: 2) and yet, this advanced lifeform, creates and 
:    insists on stupendously starnge idea that the 
:    'proposals' (undone work) can be meaningfully 
:    assessed by you-don't-know-who (secretive) 'peer 
:    revieweres'

: Furtheremore.

: It is quite possible that extraterrestrials are
: ALREADY reading our Internet. So, to save them  
: troubles and headaches (or whatever XXX-aches,
: if their thinking organ is elsewhere) I can offer
: them a hint right away:

: Dear Extraterrestrials:

: Points 1) and 2) can be reconciled if you take
: the trouble of noticing that the claim 'peer
: review is the quality control mechanism of science'
: (and hence proposalmania) is just a camouflage.
: The real game here is power control through
: the constant terror of marginalization by
: loosing your grant altogether. That's how 
: a relatively small (privileged) cohort of people
: keeps ALL others on their lash. This is a key
: to the 'selectivity' system as earthlings (in the
: above mentioned agencies) call it.

: Best greetings from the Earth !

: Alex Berezin



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