Friday, May 22, 2009

Funding for Scientific Research

Granting agencies disperse funds allocated for science which usually comes from public and charitable money. Private industry also funds scientific research, however it is typically heavily biased towards creating a new product or process that could be profitable. Unfortunately, granting agencies are also inclined to award funds to research that could lead to a new profitable product or process. This occurs by the very nature of the overly commercialized society in which we live – if scientific research is going to affect humanity for the better it is assumed that science will do so by creating a new invention that will have to become a commercial product – thus biasing scientific funding towards more commercializable endeavours.

Basic scientific research has been taking a back-seat in the funding process. Typically it is incremental research that gets funded; to get a significant grant to do some research study you typically need to have a bunch of recent journal papers that are being directly built upon in the (hopefully) funded study. Considering the amount of time it takes to get a paper published in a journal, obtaining significant grant funding is extremely challenging without a long term incremental approach to science. It also helps to be fortunate enough to establish a base of journal papers in one's graduate research to self-cite/self-promote in the grant application.
A friend of mine sent me an article (Elements, April 2009) with this quote that I loved: