Dr Strangely Strange returns us to the usual conundrum.

What are the key issues that NIH could easily address to make the system more fair, inclusive and to encourage better science (other than throwing more money at us). …Is there something else that we can all agree on that it would make a difference?

I had my usual, highly cynical albeit informed, response:

if the online discussions tell us anything it is that every single person insists that the “obvious”, “just”, “rational”, “fair”, etc solution to the problems of the NIH are whatever just so conveniently happen to suit their own situation or imagined near-future situation.

But here’s what I think we can agree on. We need to shrink the number of people with their hands out for NIH funds. Shrink the number of people being supported as professional scientists. And by “number”, this includes the notion of fractional people, i.e., those who only spend part of their time being paid by federal grant dollars.

The question is…who?

Who gets chopped?

Who is either kicked out of the system or prevented from entering the system in the first place*?

This is where we disagree. Fervently. It is an obvious truth that everyone starts with a very simple and universal principle on who should be shelled out of the NIH-supported system.

“Not Me”.

What I want to suggest for today’s futile exercise in getting the readership to follow their plans ALL the way down is this. Go on RePORTER. Search out some key words that are nice and broad or if you are under a smallish IC just search the whole I or C.

Run through that list and pick out something like 20% of the PIs that you would vote permanently off the island. Find 20% of your peers that you would ace without any detrimental impact on the broader scientific subfield of your interest.

I’d be interested if you come to any general set of criteria for deciding, how you did that. So maybe drop us a comment.

*This is a topic for another day but the “painless” solution of turning off the PhD tap is only painless if you forget senior undergraduate you when you were deciding what you really wanted to do was to go to graduate school and earn your PhD.