11 February 2009

Putting food on the table, science style

Stephen Quake, subbing in for Olivia Judson, has a superb column in the New York Times detailing how science currently runs: tax money and the very occasional private foundation.

For instance...

It strikes me as one of the ironies of modern life that professorial faculty... accept such a brutal free-market approach to their livelihood. If they can’t raise grants to support their research every year, they won’t get paid. So not only do they have to worry about publish or perish, it’s also funding or famine, in the very real sense that without a grant there might not be food on the family dinner table!

Fortunately, I am in a position where my base is not dependent on my getting grants. But let me add that there's a spillover effect. I have a grant for undergraduate researchers. I have the potential to have a big impact on the pay going to a set of students. And being responsible to bring in money for other people is also pretty stressful.

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