Grants Awarded To Researchers

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MSimon
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Grants Awarded To Researchers

Postby MSimon » Tue Feb 09, 2010 6:48 pm

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http://www.insideindianabusiness.com/ne ... 044#middle

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What is pitiful is that the program is only costing $8.9 million a year for 69 out of a pool of 1750. For $250 million we could have funded almost all of the 1,750.

What is wrong with these people? Don't they have any idea where real wealth comes from?
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MirariNefas
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Postby MirariNefas » Wed Feb 10, 2010 1:30 am

Not $8.9 million/year, $17 million/year by my reading of the article. But your point remains.

I agree that 69 is a pitifully small number, but it would be the death of science to fund everything. You need to make them compete, keep them on their toes. Fund the top 10%, and everybody is always striving to make their project better than the other 90%.

There's a balance. Too much time writing grant proposals is a waste. Kids who don't get into grad school because they aren't funded is a waste. Scientists who focus on one or two projects when they could oversee several and hire a few techs, is also a waste. But funding poorly thought out projects with weak justifications is a waste too.

Funding 400 or so would have been pretty nice though.

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Postby MSimon » Wed Feb 10, 2010 1:47 am

MirariNefas wrote:Not $8.9 million/year, $17 million/year by my reading of the article. But your point remains.

I agree that 69 is a pitifully small number, but it would be the death of science to fund everything. You need to make them compete, keep them on their toes. Fund the top 10%, and everybody is always striving to make their project better than the other 90%.

There's a balance. Too much time writing grant proposals is a waste. Kids who don't get into grad school because they aren't funded is a waste. Scientists who focus on one or two projects when they could oversee several and hire a few techs, is also a waste. But funding poorly thought out projects with weak justifications is a waste too.

Funding 400 or so would have been pretty nice though.


I think cutting the bottom 10% or 20% is about right. I think a 1 in 10 or 1 in 5 chance of no money would keep things honest enough.

$150 K x 69 = 10.4 million. So maybe you are correct about the higher number ("excess" grants to some + admin).
Engineering is the art of making what you want from what you can get at a profit.
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MirariNefas
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Postby MirariNefas » Wed Feb 10, 2010 4:12 am

DOE Secretary Steven Chu recently announced recipients from across the nation will receive about $85 million in total funding for five-year research grants.


$85 million/5 years= $17 million/year. The $150,000 is the minimum they award, and would be wholly insufficient for many projects.

Oh, in case these numbers seem high to anyone, I'd like to point out that universities take a huge cut from all grants their researchers earn (goes to university overhead). Where I'm at, they take 50% of everything. Factor in salaries for the principal investigator and staff, and not a lot is left for equipment/consumables. I'm not sure if other research venues also suffer that kind of loss, but it wouldn't surprise me.

MirariNefas
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Postby MirariNefas » Wed Feb 10, 2010 4:33 am

Cutting the bottom 20% would be pretty good, especially as long as we're stimulusing the economy. As regular business, I think in general scientists see something like a 75% rejection rate (just from gossip, I think that's the NSF rate).

Keep in mind that rejections aren't always permanent horrible things. A lot of the time the researcher polishes up the idea for another go later, or moves on to another of (hopefully many) ideas sitting in his head.

Rant on: A lot of scientists are either selfish or stuck up. I hate hearing about how "noble" pure research is. The applications of knowledge are important, and the taxpayers have no obligation to fund somebody's hobby, no matter how educated he is. Funding more stuff will probably mean a greater proportion of research being done because someone thinks it's "interesting" and not so much because it's "important".

Rant off: This isn't true for all scientists, and even pure basic science can lead into applications somewhere down the road, indirectly. And maybe the DOE only takes useful projects and I'm ranting at the wrong thing here, I don't know.

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Postby MSimon » Wed Feb 10, 2010 6:27 am

MirariNefas wrote:Cutting the bottom 20% would be pretty good, especially as long as we're stimulusing the economy. As regular business, I think in general scientists see something like a 75% rejection rate (just from gossip, I think that's the NSF rate).

Keep in mind that rejections aren't always permanent horrible things. A lot of the time the researcher polishes up the idea for another go later, or moves on to another of (hopefully many) ideas sitting in his head.

Rant on: A lot of scientists are either selfish or stuck up. I hate hearing about how "noble" pure research is. The applications of knowledge are important, and the taxpayers have no obligation to fund somebody's hobby, no matter how educated he is. Funding more stuff will probably mean a greater proportion of research being done because someone thinks it's "interesting" and not so much because it's "important".

Rant off: This isn't true for all scientists, and even pure basic science can lead into applications somewhere down the road, indirectly. And maybe the DOE only takes useful projects and I'm ranting at the wrong thing here, I don't know.


Yeah. But you are thinking more of applied research.

And the trouble with research is that you never know when interesting will turn into important.

The goal should be to waste 1/2 the money. Because if you are not wasting 1/2 you are not learning enough. Shannon if you care.
Engineering is the art of making what you want from what you can get at a profit.
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CaptainBeowulf
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Postby CaptainBeowulf » Wed Feb 10, 2010 10:01 am

I think cutting the bottom 10% or 20% is about right. I think a 1 in 10 or 1 in 5 chance of no money would keep things honest enough.

$150 K x 69 = 10.4 million. So maybe you are correct about the higher number ("excess" grants to some + admin).


With a fair bit of on and off experience in academe, I would say something similar. In fact, it would create quite an incentive to not fall in the bottom 20%. If you couldn't get a grant, you would feel quite humiliated in front of your colleagues. Basically, not funding the bottom 20% would be using the stick, whereas only giving out grants to the top 10% is using the carrot.

I dunno, maybe extra-large grants for the top 10%? Stick and carrot? I find a combination is usually the best way to go with people. It's used for other types of contractors (ie. road construction, defense acquisition projects): bonuses if the project is delivered ahead of schedule, penalties if there are cost overruns and schedule slips.

KitemanSA
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Postby KitemanSA » Wed Feb 10, 2010 12:06 pm

Then there was that research grant proposal that got up to final review requesting $ to study the harmonic oscillations of juxtaposed semi-gelatinous hemispheres. The research edquipment listed included a beach chair, suntan lotion, and binoculars; all described in suitably scientific gobbledegook.

Nice summer study if you can find it. :lol:

BenTC
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Postby BenTC » Thu Feb 11, 2010 3:57 pm

MSimon wrote:Shannon if you care.
Or Nyquist?
In theory there is no difference between theory and practice, but in practice there is.

seedload
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Postby seedload » Thu Feb 11, 2010 5:35 pm

It is nice to see that there are scientists who are smart enough to do things more important than counting tree rings badly.

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Postby MSimon » Thu Feb 11, 2010 8:23 pm

BenTC wrote:
MSimon wrote:Shannon if you care.
Or Nyquist?


I believe Shanon was more into information. i.e. what is the failure probability of an experiment that gives you the most information? 50%.

It stems from the fact that information equals log (base2) of the number of symbols in a message. And thus you get the most information from a question that has a yes - no answer.
Engineering is the art of making what you want from what you can get at a profit.
http://protonboron.com/
THE OPEN POLYWELL FUSION CONSORTIUM


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