Tag Archives: NIH



The Malthusian problem of too many scientists causes the hyper-competition for research grants! (http://dr-monsrs.net)

The Malthusian problem of too many scientists causes the hyper-competition for research grants! (http://dr-monsrs.net)


One of the big problems in modern science is how to find more money to pay for the research projects of thousands of scientists working in the U.S.  Many billions of dollars are given each year by the government science agencies as research grants, to support the experiments of faculty scientists at universities, medical schools, research institutes, etc.; however, that gigantic pile of dollars never seems to be enough.  The National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) are the largest U.S. science agencies issuing research grants; they now are able to award grants to only around 19-20% of their applicants for financial support [1].  The end result of this ongoing quagmire is that getting research grants now is the main job for academic scientists.

Today’s dispatch gives a new idea for alleviating this financial problem by utilizing a different and unconventional source of money.

Brief background for this new idea! 

Public lotteries exist in most modern Western countries, and are quite popular with their populace.  Lottery players are numerous, and the price per ticket is small.  Lotteries represent a chance for anyone to instantly become wealthier, so many people are happy to buy at least several tickets every week; for the largest jackpots, the number of tickets sold rises immensely.  Payouts presently range up to many hundred millions of dollars.  In the U.S., it commonly is estimated that taxation reduces giant windfalls for lottery winners by around 50%; the national and state governments profit greatly by this taxation, but that still leaves most big winners with more money than they can ever spend.

In the U.S., the biggest popular lotteries have an administrative bureaucracy in place to design new contests, run the sale of lottery tickets, issue publicity to encourage ticket purchases, determine the winner(s) under monitored conditions, and distribute the winnings; all of this organization and infrastructure features ongoing activity with agents, lawyers, offices, officials, and staff.

Let’s use the largest public lotteries to help fund scientific research!  

To start using large lotteries to increase the money available to support scientific research in academia, only a few big changes need to be made!

Change #1: The grand winner of any very large lottery contest will receive only 50% of the jackpot prize money (e.g., instead of winning a single lump sum cash prize of 700 million dollars, the biggest winner would only get $350 million).  That still is an extremely substantial sum for anyone to win!  The other 50% of the winnings then will be used to fund additional research grants from the NSF and NIH, using all their existing policies, procedures, protocols, and staff for handling research grants.  Thus, the biggest change will be to shift the large amount of the federal tax on jackpot lottery winnings  currently going into general or specified revenue, to go into the pool of funds used by the NSF and NIH to issue research grants.

Change #2:  As a special bonus to the big winners, they will be authorized to list  some portion of their actual winning prize (e.g., 10%)  as a charitable contribution on their annual U.S. income tax filing.

Change #3:  After the 3-5 years duration of a new research grant ends, all the grants coming from this new funding source would not be directly renewable, except as a new grant funded from the standard Congressional appropriations.  Since the purpose of this new funding mechanism is to increase support for worthy research proposals, the new grants using money from the biggest lotteries will not be available to scientists already holding regular active research grant awards.

What will not be changed? 

Everything for handling applications by scientists for research grants from the NSF and NIH will stay as is.  Giant lotteries will still operate just as at present.  The many smaller lotteries (i.e., lump sum single payment prize of $1.0 million or less) all will remain  unaffected.  State taxation of all lottery winners will not be altered.  Winners of large jackpot prizes will still be delighted to instantly become very wealthy.

What will result from use of a new funding source for research grants? 

The addition of money from the largest lotteries (i.e., with grand prize winners getting a lump sum single payment prize of more than $1.0 million) to fund new research grant awards from NSF and NIH will permit (1) more worthy research projects to be supported, and (2) more grants to be awarded funding in full instead of only a partial award.  Result #2 would decrease the number of scientists needing to cancel  some proposed  experiments and leave some research questions unanswered, due to their truncated grant award.  Increasing the money available for the NSF and NIH research grants will help science progress and result in more new discoveries.  In addition, the very destructive current hyper-competition for research grants between all academic scientists will be lessened (see “All About Today’s Hyper-Competition for Research Grants”  ).

Some good questions, and my answers! 

Wouldn’t gross revisions and new programs for the NSF and NIH be required?  No!  Those are not needed because the new funds are simply added to the pools of money at NSF and NIH that are used to pay for their current research grant awards.  Administrative changes will be minimal; the existing procedures and staff at these agencies will process those awards as usual.

Would enough money be collected to make this new source of research funding actually be effective?  Yes!  Every year, the total pool of prizes for all the biggest lottery winners in the U.S. and the world is some billions of dollars [2].

This idea will not solve the problem of finding more money for research projects, so how could the new research grants really help science progress?  Anything and everything helps!  More fully funded grants means more research progress!

What about using lottery winnings to provide more money to the other science funding agencies (e.g., Agricultural Research Service, Department of Energy, NASA, etc.)?  The NSF supports research projects in all branches of science, and the NIH notably includes support for both basic and applied research projects in biomedical science.  If this new idea for funding with money from big lotteries works well for the NSF and NIH, then it might later be expanded to include some of the other government science agencies.

Won’t this new money for research be just a drop going into a very large bucket? 

The additional money made available from lotteries for new research grants certainly will not completely solve the present problem for funding scientific research, but it equally certainly will help.  The dollars made available from the lottery winners will enable more needed experimental research studies to be conducted by academic scientists on cancer, genetic diseases, nano-chemistry, new batteries, remediation of environmental pollution, safer food, etc.

A brief discussion! 

The main causes of the never-ending tearful cries for more money to support scientific research include: (1) the increased number of foreign graduate students and doctoral scientists staying in the U.S. and applying for research grants after getting a new faculty job acts to increase the pool of applicants and directly makes the current very destructive hyper-competition for research grants get worse and worse; (2) many more new Ph.D. scientists are being produced by graduate schools every year in the U.S., thereby increasing the Malthusian research grant problem; (3) inflation continues to increase the costs of doing research despite the fact that modern scientific research already is very, very expensive; and, (4) present policies for increasing the number of applicants now receiving a grant with only partial funding in order to elevate the total number of applying scientists that receive some award, is quite counter-productive.

Using the biggest lotteries to help support scientific research will not completely solve the money problem, but will help alleviate it.  Since the causes for the ongoing eternal shortage of money to support research studies are known, this large problem should be solvable.  Constantly increasing the large number of doctoral scientists researching in the U.S. is both unnecessary for science progress and very problematic.  Those who refuse to see the Malthusian aspects of this financial problem are preventing its solution!

Concluding remarks! 

New ideas are badly needed for how to find more money to support scientific research!  Using lottery prize money will not solve the entire problem for financing scientific research, but it sure would help!


[1]  National Science Board, Science & Engineering Indicators, 2016.  Table 5-22, NIH and NSF research grant applications and funding success rates: 2001-14.  ( http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/2016/nsb20161/uploads/1/8/tt05-22.pdf  ).

[2]  Wikipedia, 2017.  Lottery jackpot records.  Available on the internet at:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lottery_jackpot_records .