The article has struck a nerve with researchers and generated lots of emails:
“The problem is, over and over again, that many very creative young people, who have demonstrated their creativity, can't figure out what the system wants of them—which hoops should they jump through? By the time many young people figure out the system, they are so much a part of it, so obsessed with keeping their grants, that their imagination and instincts have been so muted (or corrupted) that their best work is already behind them. This is made much worse by the US system in which assistant professors in medical schools will soon have to raise their own salaries. Who would dare to pursue risky ideas under these circumstances? Who could dare change their research field, ever?”—Ted Cox, Edwin Grant Conklin Professor of Biology, Director of the Program on Biophysics, Princeton UniversityScience has become a bureaucratic activity, like just about everything else in our bureaucratic age. Everyone complains about the horrid drain of writing endless grant proposals, but how else to decide who will get the funding? It is one of the peculiarities of our age that we have both a huge problem with illiteracy and innumeracy in the population and an oversupply of professors and researchers.
“You can write a grant for an important project for which there is ample pilot data. It can be very well reviewed but still fail to be funded. Money is limited, and maybe the projects funded are even better, so you cannot necessarily complain. But the issue is wastage. The pilot data may go nowhere—just languish in a drawer. Expertise will be lost—the applicants will have to work on something else. Eventually, someone else may repeat the work and bring it to publication, but without the advantage of knowing what had already been done. So the previous investment of the funding bodies is wasted.”—David Strutt, Senior Research Fellow, Professor, Department of Biomedical Science, University of Sheffield