Economics of Academic Science Funding

Letting Scientists off the Hook

In the 2/10 Wild Side column in the NY Times, Stanford bioengineering professor and HHMI investigator Steve Quake writes about the economic life of a scientist at a research university, how it impacts young scientists as well as innovation and creativity in research, and if it is time to reconsider how science is funded.

It strikes me as one of the ironies of modern life that professorial faculty, who by and large lean to the left politically, 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!

It’s almost like a small business — each faculty member is essentially running an enterprise for which he or she must find revenue (grants), manage finances, balance the books and pay expenses like salaries, tuition, rent and even taxes to the university for the space used.

Take a look at the article, and comments. Agree?  Disagree?  Post your comments.

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