November 9, 2012
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Probably everyone knows that science funding is not doing ok in the US (or anywhere else for that matter). The grant application success rates have dipped below 15% or even 10% for larger grants. Scientists have been reduced to grant writers: a long and seemingly futile endeavor that is taking more and more away from research time. Basically, people are spending more and more time explaining what they want to do, and less and less time actually doing it. This is not the only problem… with low success rates, the funding process becomes conservative, less imaginative and the word “feasible” transforms into an utterly subjective concept in the mind of the reviewer. Basically, as a young scientist, you need a proposal that is both conventional and innovative at the same time… which seems like a paradox. To be honest, scientists themselves are part of the problem… like any other fraction, every scientist comes with biases, convictions and unfounded belief-systems that clouds his/her judgment. And as the number of grants per researcher shrinks, these biases become an important factor in rankings and scoring applications. The funding problem needs to be dealt with, and I think it will be dealt with in one form or another in the next 4-5 years (things simply cannot go on like this). But those who have power to change anything have not felt the problem yet and like any other profession, the young and less-established investigators suffer the most. Now Ethan Perlstein and his colleagues have come up with a short term solution to fund their innovative ideas. They have started a project in Rockethub to crowd fund their project. I think this is a step forward in the right direction. At this point, they are half way there (their goal is 25,000 dollars)… if you are reading this, head to their project, read their statement and consider fueling this study.
Shut up and take my money
September 2, 2012
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Genophoria is a portmanteau of “genomics” and “euphoria” and no, it’s not the opposite of genophobia (which is fear of sex). However, I wish I could say that the pun was not intended. Now, what is my mission? Simply put, my goal is to make my field of study more accessible to the masses. Why is it that what we do is done the way we do it? What are the day to day consequences or is there an overarching story behind a study? I do realize that these posts may just be me rambling about science, the scientific method and common sense. But where is the harm i that? I do believe that scientists and academics need to leave their ivory towers and do a much better job of informing the masses. There was a time that science was “cool”. After World War II, you could even imagine a scientist as president. But not anymore… those days are gone. As researchers shrugged off their newfound glory and retreated into the comfort of their academic bubble, we lost a golden opportunity. We lost our chance to be part of the policy making process and bring the rigorous scientific tools at our disposal into the realm of politics. Now, 50 years on… we have all but lost. Now, geeks are just that, GEEKS.
However, I refuse to believe that we cannot change this. I think that we can still win the heart and minds of the masses and show them that science is not just an everlasting endeavor in pursuit of knowledge, but rather it is so much more than that. It’s a way of life, it’s a worldview, it’s a way of doing things. And everyone should take part in it… everyone should rejoice in a new discovery not but watching it happen on TV but by being part of it. I might not possess the knowledge to send a rover to Mars, but I can be part of the culture that enabled it to happen. A culture that does value curiosity adventure and the power of knowledge.