Don't Just Sit There

A Cell commentary urges researchers to advocate for scientific research and training funds.

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My feeling is that the

My feeling is that the scientific enterprise is partly responsible for the dire situation of funding, to the extent that hiring practices are structurally disconnected from operating funding. Even if scientists lobby congress endlessly (and we know that money and influence in lobbying are indeed effective), we lack credibility if we refuse to put our own house in order. As it is, institutions are in direct competition with each other for grants, and increase hiring to improve their chances. This leads to an obvious nation-wide escalation with attending high levels of stress, time wasted on unproductive grant submissions, and high turnover rates of faculty. In fact the system is largely sustainable only through an influx of foreign students, postdocs and job candidates for whom the high failure rates are still preferable to even worse situations in many of their own countries. Although americans and scientists in particular abhor central planning, and it certainly has its risks, the current situation leaves us with a severe lack of credibility. If I were in Congress I would assume that no amount is ever going to be enough, and that scientists are just as venal as every other group lobbying for pork. Our best chances (in the US and in my country, Canada) are to demonstrate a responsible attitude. We are in a near global recession, and now is not the time to lobby for more resources without any show of reasonableness at the same time. A recent international site review of the CIHR (canadian equivalent to the NIH) noted this problem explicitly, and presumably would have the same critique of the US university hiring system.