18 August 2011

As science funding dries up...

The funding of scientific research in the United States (and many other countries) is looking ever more like this:

With small ponds, a lot of people are determined to become the big fish.

So lots of researchers learn about “grantsmanship” and spend hours crafting the perfect proposal.

Some hope to find new funding sources in industry, private foundations and crowd funding.

But maybe there’s another strategy...

Rely on it a lot less than everyone else.

Adaptation or extinction. Those are always your choices in the face of extreme selection pressure.

Drying up photo by by Brian Auer on Flickr; big fish wall art by As_One on Flickr; both used under a Creative Commons license.


Kevin Zelnio said...

Relying less on science funding is not an option at many large universities which act like corporations and see scientists as bringing in the bottom line. I saw a good scientist, good teacher and really nice guy get treated like an unwanted dog for not bringing in big grants. He did all his work on computers and paper, aligning previously published genomic data. He just didn't need a lot of money to do his research! But they viewed him as a parasite cause he wasn't doing enough to cover overhead of the dept. and himself I guess...

Of course, the field of taxonomy is viewed similarly.

neuromusic said...

A story of two talks at a seminar.

The first talk was by the head of a big super-duper microscopy facility. Nearly every slide included images of either the multi-million dollar microscopes or crazy fancy 3D reconstructions. Hot stuff. And after nearly every slide, the presenter would say, "...and the microscope we used cost $X gazillion".

The next presenter had a small electrophysiology lab. Most of the work consists of patch clamping... a 30 year old technology. The presenter starts the talk, "Everything I'm going to show you was done with toothpicks and bubblegum".

Efficiency is the next big thing in science. We need clever approaches to tough questions, we don't need to just throw money at the biggest, fanciest projects.

LabKitty said...

How about universities reduce their indirect cuts to something reasonable? Make grants half as expensive and you can fund twice as many of them.

But no, that's just crazy talk. It's okay for postdocs to starve as long as Stanford can by a yacht.