Thinning the herd but not putting them down...

Oct 28 2011 Published by under Lab, NIH

We all know biomedical science funding is woefully not enough to support all of the science going on right now, what with funding levels hitting some all time lows. Some of us believe that this is the NIH intentionally trying to thin out the PI ranks, in hopes of decreasing the number of PIs so that you end up with less labs, albeit better funded ones hopefully.

No matter how right or wrong this motion may be, we cannot sustain the level of science (#s of research institutions, PI's, projects, etc) with the current set up and funding that we have. So what are we to do with these lost PI's that don't survive The Great Purge? Flip burgers at TGI McFucksticks? Scoop Poop? Sell their organs?

My thought on the matter is based around those teaching universities that decided to dive into the biomedical research game when the NIH budget doubled. I have friends that worked at more than a few of those and when the floodgates of federal money opened they were told to go chase the money or chase another job.  Previously, research was really a secondary focus for them if that, their jobs were to educate young minds and they did just that.  The institutions emphasis became less on teaching undergrads and more on them securing grants, and more importantly for the institutions, that sweet sweet overhead on them. Maybe its time for these places that may be faltering in the grants game to change their viewpoint. If everyone is having such a hard time securing these grants and the institution really doesn't have the funds to run with the big boys, then don't do it. Don't try to race a CPP's Maserati when you are barely rolling in an AMC Gremlin.

Let some of these people who were just focused on teaching before go back to just you know, focusing on teaching students. If they can't secure enough funds for research, make them focus on education, pick up another course section to teach. Sadly though this plan may have an unintended consequence of squeezing off employment of adjuncts too though.

What are the other options for these PI's who are going to get knocked out the game?

One response so far

  • Jim Thomerson says:

    There was an article in Bioscience, early 80's probably, which looked at science using the logistic growth curve. It concluded that we were at carrying capacity and that funding would never double again. They thought the number of PhD programs should be drastically reduced and that the number of large, well funded labs would diminish. Also that some areas of inquiry would lose out in the competition for resources and essentially become extinct. It would be interesting to look at that article in the light of the past 30 years history.

    Fortunately, I spent my career as an ichthyologist at a regional university without PhD program. I am fairly well satisfied with the funding and research I was able to accomplish under the circumstances. Something to be said for the small pond.

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