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Old April 13 2014, 07:03 PM   #37
Location: Kentucky
Re: Interesting interview on the state of science

Jedi_Master wrote: View Post
I love this. Definitely gturner's style. Start a thread, make vague comments about the issue, refuse to answer direct questions, insult those who ask, and then ramble on about his own life.
Confess. You are Dilbert's pointy-headed boss.

The big advantage the US currently has in research is that we're much more lax about seniority and position than Europe (we'll give a newly minted PhD from Europe a big lab and a staff, whereas he might have to spend 20-years working his way up the ladder to get the same facilities back home), and we have a lot more money to throw around.

But we do make really bright grad students slave away on projects where their professor will take the credit, and the professor might be "doing" the research because he managed to get a grant for it through the big grant pyramid.

Here's how the NIH lays out the suggested grant process:


Planning: Applicant should start early, collect preliminary data, and determine internal deadlines.

Writing: Applicant often begins writing application several months prior to application due date.

Submitting: Applicant organization submits most applications to NIH through Federal portal,

Months 1 to 3:

Applications compliant with NIH policies are assigned for review by the Division of Receipt and Referral in the Center of Scientific Review (CSR).

CSR assigns application to an NIH Institute/Center (IC) and a Scientific Review Group (SRG).

Scientific Review Officer (SRO) assigns applications to reviewers and readers.

Months 4 to 8:

Initial level of review: SRG members review and evaluate applications for scientific merit.

Impact scores: Available to Principal Investigator on eRA Commons.

Second level of review: Advisory council/board reviews applications.

Summary statement: Available to Principal Investigator on eRA Commons.

Months 9 to 10:

Pre-award process: IC grants management staff conducts final administrative review and negotiates award.*

Notification of award: NIH Institute/Center (IC) director makes funding decision. IC staff issues and sends Notice of Award (NoA) to applicant institution/organization.

Congratulations: Project period official begins!

Post-award management: Administrative and fiscal monitoring, reporting, and compliance.


Imagine if we used the same procedure for art, or writing new iPhone aps. But with that much money being tossed around, the public demands strict accountability, because it's public money. As they say, you can go broke saving money, and staffing a bureaucracy with people whose inclination lies in running a bureaucracy (instead of doing science themselves), and tasking it with maximizing the number of fundamental insights generated per dollar by eliminating waste through multiple layers of review (by people whose inclination lies in running a bureaucracy) is not the best way to foster staggering feats of genius.

Little known fact: The time clock, and working a fixed number of hours, was invented by the US military to satisfy Congress that weapon production was being run in a highly-organized, cost-managed fashion, because Congress kept auditing the arsenals looking for waste - in terms of man-hours of labor per weapon. The arsenal response was to make all the local gunsmiths clock in and out instead of paying them by the piece.

So too we try to make insight a 9 to 5 job that can be managed, except for grad students who should work 9 to 9, and then to 11 so they don't have the free-time to calculate that they're making well below the minimum wage, an epiphany that sometimes leads them to take up a career in the food-service industry.
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