A crisis of our own making.

March 27, 2007

John Carey opines in a recent commentary that the current NIH funding situation is one of biomedical scientist’s own making.What a crock. This is like telling the veteran complaining about care in Walter Reed that this is all the fault of the military for so successfully engaging in a 4 year long war…

The commentary does raise a good issue for biomedical scientists, however, which is the behavior of the universities (and research institutes to a lesser degree). It is a fair point that universities used the easy money days of the NIH doubling to build scientific infrastructure. This was essentially the intent of Congress in doubling the budget so they can hardly be blamed for this. Universities are, however, at fault for some things. First, unheard in most discussions has been the abdication of the traditional role of the university in supporting research science, the most essential component of which is to provide base salaried jobs for independent researchers. FTEs. Professorships in which if times get hard the salary is covered by teaching undergraduates. Universities have, however, shifted in recent decades to teaching more and more classroom hours with temporary employees (instructors) and also generating more and more research data with temporary employees (grad students, postdocs). Often these roles are filled by the same individuals trying to make ends meet to pursue the career they love.

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