Decimate them!

Jun 29 2015 Published by under Careers, Life, NIH

Lots of people recognize that the NIH/NSF grant making systems just aren't working under the current conditions of low funding and a glut of PI's. There will be a cull of PI's whether it's deliberate or not. Let's face it, it's already happening and has been for a while. That's led some people to suggests changes to the way we do business. Reform of the NIH if you will. All the suggestions I've seen essentially promote the elite at the expense of the riffraff.* And are poorly thought through at best. Frankly, I've yet to hear a suggested reform that would truly improve upon what we currently have.

So. We're being culled. How can we manage this in a way that benefits science? There are arguments - often good ones - against targeting specific groups.** And most suggestions center on "them, not me".

How about a truly democratic approach? One that's impervious to the old boys clubs?

Anyone up for decimation? Roman army style?


* I am proudly riffraff, so obviously opposed to those.

** Except maybe KILL THE OLDZ!!!!!!!!!*** Although maybe even then. How best to define the old? Are all the oldz deserving of being culled?

*** A CPP favorite.



19 responses so far

  • Morgan Price says:

    My impression is that even if the number of eligible PIs is reduced by 10% there will still be far too many proposals.

  • drugmonkey says:

    Interestingly, the Roman decimation was per group, right? 10% of each organizational unit. And in some variations *all* of the leadership gets whacked, right?

  • MTomasson says:

    Creative idea...but the key mind-f#$% we are missing here--it's not the NIH/NSF that does the cull in a Roman-style decimation. The group to be punished was divided into groups of 10 and then lots were drawn. A key psychological feature to drive home the punishment: the person who drew the short straw was clubbed or stoned to death by the other nine. So, here, the agencies could force us to do it to ourselves..the 9 winners could come dismantle the losers lab and office and split their remaining resources.

  • jmz4gtu says:

    It would be absolutely hilarious if they let the study sections do the decimating. All those PIs that assiduously avoided serving because they were too f*ing important would now be prime candidates for the cull. You can bet your bottom dollar that the remaining PIs would be much more enthusiastic about serving on study sections for years to come.

    But as practical measure, I'd propose some sort of metric-based approach to targeting people for the cull. Something like (((#of papers/year) *log2(JIF))/NIH funding)*log2(%institutional support) for each of the past five to ten years. Set a threshold at the bottom 15% and let the study sections rescue the 1/3 of those they deem worthy from the fire.

    • odyssey says:

      Nope. Not in the slightest democratic.

      • jmz4gtu says:

        It seems to me you want stochastic, not democratic. There's no democratic way to cull 10% of the PI population without people evaluating some sort of metric when they vote. And most of those metrics are going to benefit the elite.

        • Odyssey says:

          No metrics. As soon as you include metrics you disadvantage some people and advantage others who might not deserve it. Draw lots. Done.

          • genomicrepairman says:

            Its all about that random chance!

          • jmz4gtu says:

            So yeah, stochastic, not democratic. There's been arguments that the top X% of grants should be funded by lottery as well. It has some points going for it. But I think most people would balk at a truly random process.

  • Viktoria says:

    In my opinion, the only poisbsle way to write an abstract is after you have finished the paper, because it needs to be a concise summary and you can't do that until you have something to summarise.And next-last must be the Intro for the same reason, and so that you don't go on and on with stuff that (ends up being) not relevant to that particular set of results, though you thought it was interesting at first. (Or, if you need to write the intro first for your own purposes, ie to overcome the inertia of getting started, then at least give it a severe edit after you have written everything else).So many times when i have reviewed papers, I have suggested that half the intro be deleted, as it waffles on in an entirely different direction from the main point of the paper.Sometimes abstracts do that too don't encapsulate what the conclusions really are.And how many times have you skimmed something that is only of mild interest to you, and ALL you have done is look at the figures, tables and conclusions? The figs and tables therefore should tell their own story, with adequate captions to enable this to happen for those not interested in the nitty gritty of the methodology.After that rave? Yes, just adding substance to Isis' initial thoughts. I agree.d.