Science on Trial, Part 2: An Immodest Proposal

Yves here. KLG proposes some significant changes to biomedical research funding, such as ending the system of annual funding with longer-term commitments, more emphasis on productivity, and broader allocation credit for what actually is team work.

By KLG, who has held research and academic positions in three US medical schools since 1995 and is currently Professor of Biochemistry and Associate Dean. He has performed and directed research on protein structure, function, and evolution; cell adhesion and motility; the mechanism of viral fusion proteins; and assembly of the vertebrate heart. He has served on national review panels of both public and private funding agencies, and his research and that of his students has been funded by the American Heart Association, American Cancer Society, and National Institutes of Health.

In the previous post of this series, Science on Trial, Part 1, we discussed the perceived necessity of a new ethics of scientific research in the “sped-up and scaled up world of science during a global pandemic.”  In my view the answer is, “No, we do not need new ethics.”  But we do need to change how research is supported if we are going to take advantage of the advances that have inarguably improved the speed, efficiency, reach, and goal-directedness of Biomedical Science, when properly practiced.  And by “we,” as always, I mean all of us as members of a polity and society.  How we have gotten to this point was considered in our previous discussion of the Bayh-Dole Act of 1980 and the relative contributions of publicly supported research and private, i.e., corporate, activities in the advancement of Biomedical Science over the past 30+ years.  It is clear that the results of publicly supported research form the essential foundation upon which all biomedical science rests.

The current problems of Biomedical Science in our sped-up and scaled up world were defined as Honesty, Fairness, Objectivity, Reliability, Skepticism, Accountability, and Openness.  I have based much of what follows on my personal experience in biomedical research in a career that began as a laboratory dishwasher and proceeded along a winding path to academic, grant-writing “Principal Investigator” [1].  As PI, I was responsible for a lab full of undergraduate and graduate students plus two senior research professionals who kept the operation going.  Although I worked at the lab bench whenever possible, my primary responsibility was to read and think, while staring out the window, in a constant effort to maintain our momentum.  Which, of course, depended on our funding: No grants, no lab, no research, no people, and no job (for me).  This was demanding and at times all-consuming, but I was somewhat successful during that period of my professional life.

My experience remains the impetus of this post, but these issues have been addressed in a compendium recently published by two biomedical scientists, Ferric C. Fang, MD, of the University of Washington School of Medicine, and Arturo Casadevall, MD-PhD, of Johns Hopkins University Schools of Public Health and Medicine: Thinking about Science: Good Science, Bad Science, and How to Make it Better (F&C) American Society of Microbiology/John Wiley & Sons, 2024; $56 direct from ASM.  At 524 pages, including endnotes and index, this remarkable work is a substantial handbook in 32 concise chapters (listed at the link).  My few quibbles are inconsequential, mostly related to how clinicians and basic scientists differ in their approaches to “training.”  I plan to read Thinking About Science with our preclinical medical students, who tend to accept what is published without question.  This is something they must be “untrained” to do.

Let us begin with Honesty, which F&C cover well.  I can count on the fingers of one hand, with four left over, the dishonest scientists I have knowingly encountered since the mid-1970s (yes, perhaps I have led a charmed life).  And even then, the “circumlocutions” had more to do with exaggeration of his particular contributions than the data and results themselves.  There was never any question about those, which were presented in all their raw glory straight from the lab notebook in regular lab meetings throughout our time in the same lab.  I was fortunate that my first job in science was in a laboratory that considered the work of any member the work of every member, where “no-holds-barred,” often heated, discussions were expected on every aspect of every project, all the time.  No manuscript ever escaped my first research group without a word-by-word examination, and that has remained true for my own group.

Still, the occasional genuine cheat will surface.  Why do scientists cheat?  Well, some people apparently cannot help themselves, but they are, or were, very rare [2].  From F&C (p. 200), most of the time scientists on the edge “are motivated by the fear of loss rather than by a desire for gain…Scientists who have committed misconduct typically do so out of fear of losing research funding, employment, or prestige…(creating)…a ‘hypermotivation’ [3] to cheat, which may overcome the desire of scientists to behave in an ethical manner.”  Indeed, as Eric Poehlman, who was convicted of using fabricated data in grant applications, explains himself (F&C, p. 201):

I placed myself…in an academic position (in) which the amount of grants that you held basically determined one’s self-worth.  Everything flowed from that.  With that grant I could pay people’s salaries, which I was always very, very concerned about.  I take full responsibility for the type of position that I had that was so grant-dependent.  But it created a maladaptive behavior pattern…which I should have but was not able to stand up to.  I saw my job and my laboratory as expendable if I were not able to produce.

I would describe this as the most unfortunate adaptation to an extremely maladaptive environment.  Still, no excuses can be accepted and Poehlman rightfully lost his career and went to prison, which is a rare event.  Another scientistguilty of similar fraud has escaped the latter penalty, to my knowledge.  A few have been punished with prison recently.

Regarding this maladaptive environment, which has only gotten more capricious over the course of my professional life, let us consider the “economics” of Biomedical Science, i.e., research that is funded by the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation just over the border from “biomedical,” and other sources such as the American Heart Association and the American Cancer Society (F&C, Chapter 19).  How Fair is it?  Not very.  First, there is priority – who gets credit for what in a discipline that is essentially a team effort.  F&C cover this from several angles, including a number Nobel Prizes (Chapter 21) that left out one or more “discoverers.”  I am intimately familiar with one of those, and they make a good, if marginal point.  But funding is dependent on the claim of being first, with “productivity” measured in “primary or corresponding authorship.”  This is usually the first or last author listed on a paper.  All authors are responsible for the content of a scientific paper.  This has been forgotten lately. The corresponding author takes the lead in publication.  In my experience, priority is very often not a simple matter.  But it can be measured (i.e., counted) very easily by administrators.  This also contributes to maladaptive behaviors among all parties involved.

Scientific publishing has also been corrupted by the inappropriate use of “Impact Factors” attached to journals.  We have discussed this before through an article by Stuart Macdonald. Suffice it to say that publishing is now more of a game than it ever has been, especially in Biomedical Science.  How to fix (some of) this according to F&C, Chapter 19 (with my notes):

  • Replace the current system of annual funding allocations with stable long-term support indexed to productivity (a very good idea that begs the question: “What is productivity and how do you measure it?)
  • Replace the winner-takes-all economic model with a fairer allocation of credit (in my experience scientists generally don’t read much outside of their discipline, but they could take lessons about their fate as members of a “middle class” from Hacker and Pierson’s Winner-Take-All Politics)
  • Reward scientific rigor rather than publication output (which is especially important in the current era of neo-predatory, pay-to-publish, open-access journals)
  • Recognize team science and collaborative contributions (yes, science is a team sport)
  • Abolish prizes to individual scientists for specific discoveries (of marginal utility in the greater scheme of Biomedical Science and other “Nobel” and “non-Nobel” disciplines)

This all would be an outstanding start, and it leads directly to the Immodest Proposal of my title.  In my view we must “fix” Biomedical Science in the immediate future.  And if we do not do this soon, its prospects are dim.

My immodest proposal is that we double the extramural research budgets of the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation and thereby return each agency to its original goal of supporting scientific research as a public good.

This is not as outrageous as it sounds, and we can afford it.  All that is needed is the will to do so while reordering our priorities.  But this also requires that I explain myself.

In 1965 NIH funded about 50% of the R01 research grant applications it received (F&C, Figure 31.1).  The “R01 grant” is the primary mechanism for funding investigator-initiated research applications to NIH.  As the scientists who taught me explained, “Back in those days we met to decide which grants not to fund.”  This is an exaggeration but only slightly so.  Success rates declined for the next 30 years to about 30% in 1995.  After the doubling of the NIH research budget during the Clinton administration, success rates temporarily improved to about 33%.  They have declined steadily since, with a slight upward blip due to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009 in the aftermath of the Great Financial Crisis.  Current overall success rates hover at 20%.  Thus, four out of five NIH research project grants (RPG) are rejected.  In some institutes, e.g., the National Cancer Institute, success rates are often in the single digits.  Recent accounting shows that as many as nine out of ten applications to study cancer are rejected.

While funding for RPGs in 2022 was $25.4B, this is roughly 20% less than 1995, adjusted for inflation, and much less as a fraction of the economy.  We have not kept up, in either funding levels or success rates.  And while the opportunity costs of decreases in public research funding are unknowable, they are certainly high.  Perhaps COVID-19 illustrates why.  The original SARS epidemic was caused by SARS-CoV-1.  It lasted less than a year, from November 2002 through June 2003.  About 800 of 8400 SARS patients died.  A therapeutic monoclonal antibody against SARS (albeit in hamsters, which is a good experimental model) was identified in 2006 (pdf) but serious research on SARS ended there for the most part.  This should not have happened, but after the short, mostly Asian SARS outbreak subsided, so did funding for research on a disease that had disappeared so quickly.  It is quite reasonable to believe that the past four years would have been different if SARS had rightfully been the subject of continued research into coronaviruses that cause human disease [4].  That would have required generous support, spread among different research groups looking at coronaviruses from every imaginable perspective.

On the other hand, it could be argued that a 20% success rate is sufficient, that reviewers can reliably identify those in the highest quintile.  I have served on and chaired review panels for the past 15 years.  My experience, which is shared by my colleagues, indicates there is no way for a review panel to distinguish among applications in the “top third” of the pool, at best.  These applications are all alike.  They address a significant problem [5], are complete and well written and supported by a strong foundation, and have been submitted by a PI who is qualified and well positioned to be successful.  They differ only in subjective opinion among members of the panel or Program Directors responsible for final approval.  Thus, which applications are funded is essentially random.  This harkens back to an inverse of the earlier period when review panels met to decide which grants not to fund.  Unless and until we return to the days when a one-third of grants in a pool are funded after initial review and one-third will be funded upon revision, our opportunity costs will continue to rise even though we cannot know what these are and what we have missed [6].

However, we do know what we are missing in the development of a strong community of biomedical scientists who are willing to work together to increase our scientific knowledge.  What was “publish or perish” 30-40 years ago has now become “publish and still perish.”  And no wonder.  Biomedical research has become a zero-sum game in which one group’s success means another group’s failure.  Thus, Objectivity, Reliability, Accountability, and especially Openness have unfortunately gone by the wayside, with dire consequences.

As a concrete example of this, I know a biomedical scientist who as an Assistant Professor was an excellent teacher and research advisor who turned down prospective students because his lab was full.  He supported his laboratory from various sources, including NIH and other agencies, and graduated three PhD students who did very well (each was awarded a competitive national predoctoral fellowship), and one MD-PhD student who has become a leading academic physician in his specialty.  This early career scientist was also recognized as an important contributor in his specific scientific community.  He was the Principal Investigator on a substantial NIH award roughly equivalent to an R01.  However, there was a local Program Director above him who was granted institutional credit for the award.  The inexorable result: No NIH grant to his credit, no tenure, no lab, no job.  This outcome of a real-life season of “Survivor” [7] is not uncommon.  It must stop.  This is something we as a polity and a society cannot afford.  It is too expensive, but as with much in our late neoliberal political economy such costs remain an unaccounted negative externality.

This lack of public funding necessary to support biomedical research is addressed as “the primary problem of inadequate funding” in F&C (Chapter 31).  A  proposed solution is for review panels to “approve” those RPG applications worthy of support and then choose the “winners” in a lottery.  This is already standard procedure, even if it is not recognized.  This would not be an improvement, nor would it be fair to those who are simply unlucky when the clock does not allow for more than a few chances in the lottery.

The pressures put on Biomedical Science by this regime have a broad reach, as noted throughout F&C, while deleteriously affecting each of the Seven Principles from Part 1: Honesty, Fairness, Objectivity, Reliability, Skepticism, Accountability, and Openness.  The damage has extended to the philosophy of science, too.  Neither F&C nor I mean the discipline “Philosophy of Science” here.  Rather, our target is the crapification of Biomedical Science due to a thoroughgoing neoliberalization (Philip Mirowski) that has severely diminished its promise and effectiveness among those committed to the life of a research scientist.

This begins when graduate students join “training programs” with primary emphasis on speed, visibility, and impact that will ensure continued funding above all.  A former colleague’s simple directive to his students was “Your task is to publish research in a high-impact journal.”  Truly impactful research would require a deep knowledge of the foundation of his research group’s particular specialty, but that would undoubtedly be “old and out of date” and therefore irrelevant.  In my experience very little impactful research is completed without a deep understanding of the history and development of the discipline.  His guidance should have been “think well while pursuing a path that is likely to answer important questions, and if our ideas are correct a “high-impact journal” will welcome our work.”

In a promising development, the School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins has developed a program to “train (sic) individuals…(to be generalists)…with broader knowledge of science and philosophy…(by)…including courses in epistemology, communication, ethics, and causality” (F&C, Box 31.1).  To which I can only respond with an “amen” in the hope that this initiative is widely adopted.  The one essential answer to this prayer is increased funding of basic Biomedical Research that allows a “thousand flowers to bloom,” as during the development of vaccines against smallpox and cholera in the late-19th century, work that was understood to reach back much further in Asian and European history.

Another serious maladaptive consequence of the lack of adequate public support for Biomedical Science is the political and administrative shortcut represented by “an increasing emphasis on targeted research funding” (F&C, p. 392).  This has been particularly evident in my experience at NSF, where programs have asked for “multidisciplinary, theoretical” approaches to specific problems.  At an international meeting about 15 years ago I briefly discussed an idea with a rotating NSF Program Director who was also a well-known cell biologist at a strong research university.  With a smile, he told me that unless I proposed “Cana Science,” I would be wasting my time.  Cana Science?  That would be the equivalent of turning water into wine as Jesus of Nazareth did at the wedding in Cana, his first public miracle described only in the non-synoptic Gospel of John.  His fair point was that unless I proposed something theoretically “out of this world,” I shouldn’t bother [8].  I bothered anyway, with no success at that time.  But I can be patient.

Will more public support mean better science?  That depends on the meaning of “better.”  By allowing biomedical scientists to once again pursue interesting questions during a long career, projects will inevitably “fail” sometimes.  But these are also likely to identify unexpected pathways to a deeper understanding of biology and medicine through serendipity.  This should be the goal of Biomedical Science.  A renewed commitment to science as a public good will also rebalance the relationship between Biomedical Science and Biomedicine (NIH SBIR/STTR, and the Healthcare System, including PhRMA and AHIP and perhaps the AMA).  Biomedicine has recently given us shortages of old but effective anticancer drugs and profusion of expensive new and probably dangerous drugs that are used as work-arounds to our unnaturally unhealthy diet.  We scientists must do better in a society that demands more from us.

Can we afford to double the budgets of NIH and NSF and maintain the momentum developed?  Yes, just as we did in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, when we recover the will and are seriously willing to reorder our priorities.  The unstated corollary to my immodest proposal is repeal of the Bayh-Dole Act of 1980 and the extensive use of march-in rights to recover the public good from Biomedicine as it is currently practiced.

The true performance of the current scientific community has been revealed by COVID-19.  I plan to return to this soon in an examination of power relationships between and among research institutions and scientists, and technology, politics, and society.  There are solutions to this mess!


I thank LS for suggesting the subtitle to this post, but he is completely innocent of the deficiencies in my argument.


[1] As the late Professor Joel Horowitz taught me in Introductory Sociology as a college freshman, we should seldom generalize about our personal experience.  True.  But that also depends on how general and extensive one’s experience has been.  I believe mine has been both in the practice of biomedical research but that remains up to the reader.

[2] Serial fraudster John Darsee was finally found out while making a name for himself in the laboratory of an eminent cardiologist at Harvard Medical School, where he published five major papers in his first 15 months in that laboratory.  This should have been the first clue that something was amiss.  His “productivity” led to the offer of a faculty position at Harvard Medical School.  In the end, his license to practice medicine in New York was revoked.

[3] S. Rick and G. Loewenstein, Journal of Marketing Research 45: 645-648 (2008).  Available after registration.

[4] MERS appeared in 2012, and through 2021 about 2500 cases were reported, of which nearly 900 died for a death rate approaching 35%.  MERS-CoV is not very transmissible, or the toll would have been much higher.  Human coronavirus virulence, pathobiology, and transmissibility remain important subjects as we enter the fifth year of COVID-19.

[5] Significance cannot be determined ex ante in the judgment of review panels or program directors; covered previously here.

[6] The other third of applications are “not competitive” for various reasons and are likely to remain in that category. That leaves 67% of applications worthy of funding.  With normal attrition, this would approach ~50%, which is the sweet spot of the mid-1960s golden age that really was.  It has never been easy to maintain a funded research group, but it was previously possible.  Now, this has become nearly impossible for many if not most would-be biomedical scientists, especially those who view scientific research as a vocation serving the public good while lacking a dominant “grantsmanship gene.”

[7] “Survival of the fittest” is not from Charles Darwin.  It was first used by Herbert Spencer.  His Social Darwinism has become the popular neoliberal understanding of meritocracy as an evolutionary process.  Darwin did not object strenuously to the expression, but his largely undefined concept of “fitness” certainly did not extend to the political economy of Victorian England and the United States after the Civil War and Reconstruction or the high neoliberalism of the 21st-century Professional Managerial Class (PMC).

[8] I lacked the wit at that moment to reply that I was being asked to follow the example of Philippus Aureolus Theophrastus Bombastus von Hohenheim – Paracelsus – the 16th-century alchemist.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email


  1. mrsyk

    Thank you KLG. A couple of quick thoughts.
    Researchers should be compensated for review work done for both grant providers and journals. This compensation could be in the form of teaching credits to relieve the time burden. A universal window through which all federal and NGO grant applications must pass would be a great thing as well.

    1. Terry Flynn

      Compensation is necessary but not sufficient. IMNSHO blinded reviewing should be ditched entirely. Any benefit it once had has long gone and it has been subverted into a vicious weapon used by intellectually bankrupt but senior gatekeepers to bully those whose research threatens to “do a Kuhn”.

      Huge swathes of research is now so specific that the “anonymous qualified referee” is an oxymoron. If the referee is qualified to truly judge your work they’re likely one of fewer than 5 people on the planet. Of those (say) 4 people, 2 hate you, one can’t be bothered to engage with you and the one who is actually nice might not get asked to referee, might be taking well-earned vacation, or might be just having a bad month due to stress.

      Incentivise people to referee publicly. Create some equivalent of Impact Factors which quantifies “the proportion of a given referee’s accept recommendations accord with results subsequently generally accepted at a given level of statistical significance*” The academic community is full of sobs. But the thing is, we ALL know who is hated by whom and why. Bring the petty feuds out into the light of day. Fields like Physics already have a lot of the refereeing and checking done openly on public servers. Let’s get rid of the “Twitter Effect” once and for all. That means putting your name beside the criticism and not hiding in the shadows.

      * I hesitate to use this term since I hate p-values but you get the idea.

      1. mrsyk

        Good comment. I agree with your sentiment that the model should be ditched, but aspects like acceptable effective methodology is outside of the general public to referee. Compensating researchers with both time (with teaching credits) and money would certainly improve the quality of the review process itself. A few things stand out from what I’ve seen of the grant reviewing process. 1) Many grant proposals are reruns, yet they get funded. 2) Some grant proposals are absurdly dumb (Long time readers will remember a ~$6mm study that concluded that cats use “cuteness” to manipulate their owners). 3) The institutional provided strategy of reviewing grants has too much focus from administrative perspective (budget, timeline). Should a study get done because it has a good business model?
        Why not review the proposals on relevance, cull those which have already been done or don’t need doing, review the methodology of those that are left, cull again, and then randomly accept from those that are left.

  2. ciroc

    Under neoliberalism, everything is business. There is no “support” for research, only “investment”. Now leave aside the public good and explain how much financial return your research will bring.

        1. Terry Flynn

          I am replying here (but generally to this particular thread re the “need to show financial return”) because you wrote a thoughtful reply to me elsewhere but my point applies to everyone in this thread of the conversation.

          ALL health services research (HSR) in the UK for up to about 20 years now has had to have a “lay representative” as part of the steering group. This person is meant to be someone who isn’t “part of the establishment – so not an academic or medical doc etc – but someone from the street who is affected by the condition being addressed”.

          I admit to being one of the “know-alls” who nodded and made appreciative noises when the (typically completely out of their depth) person tried to give “the patient’s view” during the annual steering group meeting. Did we actually make that person’s life better? Have you ever felt “out of your depth and felt obliged to say yes so you don’t look dumb”? I simply raise that question. A lot of qualitative research is done in HSR. How much is done to ensure end users can judge whether us academics are actually “worth it”?

  3. The Rev Kev

    Of course the budgets of NIH and NSF can be doubled. But another useful thing to do would be to have any work done by those scientists to have the patent held by the NIH and NSF and only leased at most to Big Pharma corporations for example. Even many years ago I was reading how government labs would develop a medicine, that medicine would be given to a Big Pharma corporation for free, they would fiddle with it to get the dosages right and then those corporations would get to slap a patent on that medicine which they would evergreen to infinity. If it was developed by the government and paid for by tax payers, why should not the government retain some reward for their work which could be used to finance other research.

  4. petal

    NIH funding has been abysmal for some time now. Grant reviews are a joke. Some PIs, like mine did, use(d) licensing deals to keep their labs afloat during lean times. Ultimately the money ran out and NIH funding was not forthcoming, so I am currently cleaning out our now-closed lab. At this point, what seems to get funded are the short-term jackpot proposals, not the longer-term, fundamental, how does stuff work, question proposals. It’s a very short-sighted, damaging way to run things. I’ll stop there.

    1. Terry Flynn

      I’m so sorry to hear that. I experienced “pseudo-good” and bad times that help me understand. My first post-doc position happened just when Blair had “established his economic credentials” (aka shown he was a proper neoclassical familyblogwit) and “turned the health funding taps on bigtime” (even though most of it was “public private partnership” aka “funny money”). I got the luxury of FIVE years to do basic research when my only publications were “official” write-ups of bits of my health-stats PhD. My post-doc was producing NADA.

      Then the thumbscrews came out. We had to start producing. Fast. Luckily I’d done enough basic research to begin to produce stuff that looked like jackpot stuff. (Downside was that a lot of UK-AUS economy flights messed up my L4/5 disc completely). We had PIs who mostly knew how to keep the ship afloat for a while…..long enough for me to become attractive overseas….

      When the post-2008 funding dearth began to show itself in terms of no genuine world-changing research it became a much nastier place to work……and ultimately the sector ate itself.

  5. ISL

    More money is a very safe call (that will be ignored by our pharma-bought congress) avoiding ruffling the feathers of power – thin luke-warm gruel.

    Funny that there was no mention of the overhead rates at universities to support a bloated overhead of extremely well-paid deans, vice deans, etc. Also funny that there is no mention of the amount of agency funding from patents and royalties – “Show me the motivation” – aligning agency goals with profits not science. Somehow 4200+ FDA approved safe and effective drugs and medical devices are withdrawn each year, many (or most?) developed with govt university funding that is funneled to private companies (often owned by the same professor getting the grant). Why no call that professors cannot own or be on the board/management of companies in the same field as they are applying for grants? Why no call to actually apply those vaunted conflict of interest policies?

    And why no call for Universities to shift to a public-funded model, rather than a neo-liberal funding model with research grants subsidizing undergraduate costs which are increasingly unaffordable to parents, ridiculous graduate costs I can hire a postdoc or better outside the university for what a grad student costs for my colleagues at a university) and a bloated bureaucracy? Between bloated student costs, and requirements to use overpriced (and often substandard) university facilities, real overhead is around 70-80% – not the stated 56%.

    Meanwhile, most other fields of science are not anywhere as well funded as biomedical research. A typical non-health research, NSF grant is 600-650k for three years, overhead knocks that to 300k/yr, a grad student costs 60k/yr, leaving 20k/yr for conference travel summer salary, and everything? Meanwhile, for two years the grad student takes classes and does virtually no research – so what is the professor doing unpaid on weekends? You need three grants for two grad students who can only do ~ 50% of the work.

    1. mrsyk

      All those “funny” things…that’s why we’re here, to bring them up in the comments. I’m with you 100% on focusing on the funding models and the methods that colleges and universities use. Nobody here is going to argue with you on the parasitic nature of administrators and the negative effect they have on budgets. I’ll stop here as well.

  6. m-ga

    I’m not sure I understand the example of the PI who was not granted institutional credit, and was therefore hindered in career progression:

    “He was the Principal Investigator on a substantial NIH award roughly equivalent to an R01. However, there was a local Program Director above him who was granted institutional credit for the award. The inexorable result: No NIH grant to his credit, no tenure, no lab, no job.”

    Wouldn’t the PI have still been able to list receipt of the NIH award on his CV, and thereby receive credit for the achievement when applying for jobs? How could this not have been the case?

    Is there some detail missing? For example, was this an internal application at the institute where the NIH grant work was carried out? I can imagine that some tenure assessment boards might require institutional credits specific to their institution for receipt of an NIH award prior to granting tenure, and that this kind of institution-specific restriction might have snarled things up.

    Any explanation would be appreciated! I’m a postdoc about to start work at an R1 university in the USA. I don’t have US citizenship. My postdoc receives funding from the R1 university itself, rather than via NIH, however I”m aware that if I stay in the US I will have to apply via NIH (or NSF) quite soon and that I may not be able to do so as PI due to citizenship restrictions. So, there are some important career considerations for me here!

    1. Terry Flynn

      I’m not sure I fully understand the intracacies of your issue but if the gist of it is “I qualified in principle but didn’t get to do the job because I wasn’t a US citizen” then you’re probably in trouble if trying to use that on your CV. Even if you’re right……you’re wrong because the system wants easy ways to cut the number of applicants.

      I was sponsored for Australian Permanent Residency before my original job description specified I would be. Why? Because the Uni realised that one of the two (yes just TWO) national research councils in Australia would not grant PI (called “Chief Investigator A – CIA” status) to anyone who wasn’t at least a Permanent Resident of Australia. I couldn’t lead my own project. Which would have severe financial issues for my (world beating) dept. So $$$$$$ was conjured up and hey presto I was an Aussie PR……which is 99% of the battle of getting citizenship. Which I duly got – many don’t because the only things citizenship gets you above PR is voting (bleh – monoparties) and jury service (yuk).

      Be VERY mindful about permanent residency and citizenship requirements when it comes to academic funding. National funding bodies that are SUPPOSED to abide by the same rules can in reality differ.

      1. m-ga

        Thanks! I’m British, so the obvious thing would be to apply for funding here. However, one of the peculiarities of the UK in recent years is that postdoc fellowships require the PhD to have been awarded prior to application (Wellcome had been the final holdout, but they changed their policy last year). This isn’t the case in the USA. A predictable result is that anyone who is approaching the end of their PhD in the UK, and who doesn’t want to take time out for postdoc fellowship applications afterwards, is best advised to apply outside the UK.

        There is an exception for postdoc positions which already have funding and are advertised wthin the UK, i.e. are part of a larger grant held by an experienced PI. It’s possible to get started on one of those immediately after the PhD. However, with such postdocs one is effectively working as a hired hand on someone else’s project. This can work out if there is a lot of overlap (e.g. some labs might keep on their PhD students as part of a larger project) but this often won’t be a good fit for the most ambitious students. The inevitable result is a brain drain of PhD students out of the UK.

    2. KLG

      I would imagine the NIH award as PI is still on his CV, not that it matters. The Program Director took credit for it, with the assent of the academic department. Thus, when the scientist came up for promotion, it did not count. The project in question was reviewed by an NIH panel and evaluated on its own merits. It was not an internal award. The $1.05M was instead credited to the Program Director, who had been a tenured professor for at least 25 years at that time. This was totally an institutional decision and this scientist was not the only participant treated this way, from what I observed. The irony is that had the PI refused to play on the institutional team as part of a multi-laboratory initiative that brought about $10M to the institution, he would undoubtedly have received a similar grant that he could have counted as his own.

      Best wishes to you as you embark on your adventure! Pay attention to the residency requirements and politics but concentrate on what you can control, which is your own research.

      1. m-ga

        Thanks for clarifying!

        I was funded by UK Research and Innovation (the British Government) for my PhD, and I got a lot done while in that programme. I wrote the funding application for my PhD, which has entirely tested my own hypotheses. The most difficult thing for me now is to gain more funding to continue this research … the studies in my PhD supported my hypotheses, but I’ll be asking for a lot more money to continue this research.

  7. MarkT

    It really irks me that the title of this article is “science on trial”. Rather than “commerce on trial”. Which is surely the cause of all our problems? Not in the fundamental sense. But rather that it has been allowed to dominate all of society. Leaving no room for anything else. Least of all organisations doing public good.

  8. MarkT

    The TVNZ government owned commercial station’s chief political editor now has a new role at a bank. Where her role is influencing government.

Comments are closed.