Peter Lawrence on the research funding system

"It is neither right nor sensible to ask scientists to become astrologists and predict precisely the path their research will follow – and then to judge them on how persuasively they can put over this fiction."

- Peter A. Lawrence, writing in PLoS Biology

In this touching and effective call to overhaul the current bloated scheme of scientific grant applications, the University of Cambridge professor argues that the current situation turns young scientists into bureaucrats and then betrays them. In a situation he brands Kafkaesque, Lawrence claims that the complicated and perilous funding process makes the scientific profession eat its own seed corn, as young scientists have no time left over after writing grants to do proper research and often fail as a result. What's more, the research that they propose to do has to be safe and fashionable to get funded in the current climate, which "sticks a knife into the back of true research" and favors large established labs over younger, up-and-coming ones.

The solution? Make grant applications simpler and shorter, don't ask young scientists to predict exactly where their research will take them, and judge their chances of success by a personal interview rather than by bean-counting their publications.

You can read the entire article for free in the open-access journal PLoS Biology.