Scientific research in modern times certainly is a quite expensive activity. Scientists researching in universities must obtain external funding from research grants in order to be able to conduct their experimental investigations in laboratories, in the field, or in hospital clinics. Doctoral scientists with research laboratories in academia traditionally are thought to spend most of their time with performing experiments and teaching in the classroom. Today, all of that is ancient history!! The chief job of academic scientists now is to make money (via research grants) for their university or hospital employer. The very best scientist now is being defined as that faculty member obtaining the largest total pile of money from research grant awards. All other faculty activities now are strictly of secondary importance.
Those of us who have seen and smelled this modern change recognize that the search for more new and true knowledge cannot possibly be equated to obtaining lots of money from research grant awards. Success at gaining more and more new knowledge, proving a controversial hypothesis, or disproving some theory that was formerly regarded as being true, cannot be directly equated to dollars, yen, euro’s, etc. Similarly, the quality level of research endeavors cannot be measured in units of currency; counting the number of dollars simply is not the same as measuring research quality and significance.
Some readers will not understand exactly what I am describing here. Of course, everyone understands that they must get external money in order to be able to conduct experimental research in science. This is reality, and it must be accepted. But, if one scientist obtains twice the funds acquired by a second scientist, does that by itself mean that the first is twice as good a researcher as the second? Not necessarily! Is the scientist with the most money the same as that scientist doing research of the highest quality? I think not! And in addition, we all have seen many examples of younger scientists with limited awarded funds perform some really terrific research studies, whereas some senior scientists with a big pot of gold just keep cranking out publications without much significance. One can also refer to the well-known and very illustrious research scientist, Prof. Linus Pauling, who was a double Nobel prizewinner in science, Pauling was notorious for being unable to force his creative mind into the rigid format for grant applications demanded by the National Institutes of Health; despite many efforts, that condition precluding him from getting much-needed research funds from that federal agaency; nevertheless, it is widely agreed that Pauling was a brilliant scientific researcher. .
This modern goal for faculty scientists differs greatly from former times when basic research aimed to find new knowledge for its own sake, develop new concepts, prove a disputed theorem, or establish a new direction in research. This modern situation is accompanied by the current general spread of commercialization into science. Basic research now is largely being de-emphasized in favor of applied research and engineering developments. The financial targeting of research has always been accepted as being part of industrial research and engineering work, but this was not accepted for basic scientific research in academia. It now is an important theoretical question of whether grant money is being acquired for its own sake, or for the conduct of research.
When all of this is put together, current university research must be seen to have become just another business activity. The aim is simply to increase profits of the employer, just as is the case in all small and large businesses. This change in direction is accompanied by many of the same problems prominently facing all competitive businesses, including (1) cheating, corruption, and dishonesty, (2) waste, (3) counterproductive competitive conflicts between different product developments, and, (4) personal greed and professional gluttony. In addition, too many scholarly research publications now are becomming analogous to commercial advertisements. These negative features are accompanied by the unavoidable cut-throat competition between all scientific researchers in university labs (i.e., since their research grants all come from the same pools of money), and also between all employing institutions (i.e., since each of these seeks to attract research grant awards only to themselves, as contrasted to being used for geographically diverse investigations of a given research problem).
These modern developments clearly have resulted in large changes in today’s academic science and research. The entire direction of experimental investigations in universities has shifted away from its classical goals. Some small portion of science could masquerade as a commercial business without becomming problematic, but the other larger parts (i.e., basic research, theoretical research) lose their identity as science and are incompatible with such a change. Some even now believe that science has decayed and degenerated so much that it could be dying; this controversial conclusion will be dealt with much further in later dispatches.
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