Smaller scientific research budgets lead to less data being generated by scientists, not the "romantic ideas of a creative genius alone in a lab, struggling against the odds," writes Oxford University's Mark Stokes in the Guardian. Stokes, a neuroscientist, notes that a number of experiments in his field have been underpowered.
"Insufficient data inevitably comes down to a question of funding. Scientists love data, and they especially love lots of data," he writes. "But funding is always limited and expectations are always high — there are strong incentives to publish more for less."
However, Stokes says that increasing funding — as brain-mapping efforts in the US and Europe plan to do — is only part of the issue. The other part is the notion that doing science on the cheap is cost effective, he says. Poorly funded studies may be underpowered and full of false-positive results that could lead other researchers astray. "So yes, science needs more funding, but we also need to rethink how the available funds are allocated," Stokes writes. "If there is a genuine commitment to funding a particular experiment, then it is essential that enough money is allocated for that experiment to be carried out properly."