NIH & the Stimulus in the NY Times

An article appeared in today's Science Section under the title, Beaker-Ready Projects? Colleges Have Quite a Few

Here's a passage that highlights what I've been harping about:

The acting director of the National Institutes of Health begged university administrators on Wednesday to avoid even applying for stimulus money unless the universities planned to hire people almost immediately.

"It would be the height of embarrassment," the official, Dr. Raynard S. Kington, said, "if we give these grants and find out that institutions are not spending them to hire people and make purchases and advance the science the way they're designed to do."

Not a problem, the administrators said, in interviews.

Now I'm not against hiring people, but we should do this responsibly. It would be insane to shuttle a whole generation into academia with no future plan. What we need is to create good stable long term careers not another boom-bust cycle that will reinforce everything that is wrong with how we train our up-and-coming scientists.

More like this

"It would be insane to shuttle a whole generation into academia with no future plan." This wouldn't be a problem if we'd be willing to actually train people for the rest of the world instead of just future PIs. Politicians, school teachers, industry, lawyers, policemen and policewomen, wouldn't it be great if these people had real scientific experience and understanding?

Especially crazy to pay for more grants when those submitted to NIGMS of NIH get an automatic cut so they can pay more grants in total. Given that, it makes sense to supplement those already funded grants to pay for equipment included in those reviewed grants. Those typically are front loaded expenses to begin with. It would give money that labs would use and spend immediately. Hiring more postdocs/grad students takes time and is a commitment of more than two years. I know my lab could use new equipment but given the automatic cut those expenses are the ones that go first because keeping people funded in the lab who are very productive is priority one.

By ponderingfool (not verified) on 24 Feb 2009 #permalink

Thank you, thank you, thank you for articulating something that concerns me enormously! I am afraid that the money contained in the stimulus package and to be apportioned out as "Challenge Grants" is going to create another glut of Ph.D.s at the other end with nowhere to go! It might be in the best interests of all concerned if the grants were limited to creating non-doctoral positions. In general, it is my considered opinion that we would benefit in this country by severely restricting the grant of Ph.D. degrees or even the admission of students to doctoral programs to ensure that there is some semblance of balance between demand and supply for jobs and Ph.D-scientists.

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