Universities have a long tradition as being repositories of knowledge, and, centers for advanced education, scholarly studies, and scientific research. Modern universities in the U.S. have had vexing problems paying for their many programs and diverse activities, so tuition is raised year after year. Faculty in science departments and medical schools conduct studies financed by research grants issued from governmental science agencies. That external source of money now also pays for very many non-science operations and activities. The end result is that scientific research at universities has been converted into a business venture providing extensive profits for money-hungry universities.
What has this recent change done to faculty scientists, science departments, and science education at universities? My answer is that any giant increase in research grant funding will make many current problems for university science get worse! My last dispatch covered the bad effects of a huge increase in research funding upon faculty scientists and their research efforts (see: “Huge Additional Research Money Will Be Bad for Faculty Scientists and Their Investigations!” ) . Today’s essay presents my reasoning about its bad effects upon universities!
Background: What causes the perennial shortage of money for university research?
The direct causes of the shortage of money for research are known and were explicitly listed in the preceding article . The ultimate causes are the bad policies and destructive activities of: (1) modern universities, and (2) the federal science agencies. While these very large institutions have generated many research advances in basic and applied science, they also have created very difficult unsolved problems in university science (see: “The Biggest Problems Killing University Science Still Prevail in 2016!” ).
Foreground: How do these ultimate causes presently operate?
Money collected from taxpayers is awarded by the U.S. governmental science agencies as research grants to academic institutions (i.e., universities, medical schools, and research institutes). Faculty scientists at universities must win a research grant, or they are unable to conduct any research investigations. Every year, more and more doctoral scientists compete to acquire research grants; the intense struggle to win federal support for research is so enormous that it must be termed a hyper-competition (see: “All About Today’s Hyper-Competition for Research Grants!” ). This battle to get research grants means that most faculty scientists today spend more time working on grant applications than working on experiments in their lab.
Granting agencies of the U.S. national government have a certain pool of taxpayer dollars available to disperse every year for a large slate of administrative and regulatory activities, as well as for support of scientific research. Priorities and proposals for funding must be harshly evaluated. Many requests cannot be funded; the National Institutes of Health, which is the largest government agency providing grants for biomedical and hospital research, was able to fund only 18.3% of all applications for support of research projects in 2015 .
Three cyclic movements of money support scientific research and determine how modern U.S. universities organize faculty research and operate science departments (see: “Three Money Cycles Support Scientific Research!” ). These mechanisms cause substantial changes from academic traditions. In particular, they make research into strictly a business activity. Universities then regard their faculty scientists as busness employees whose main job is to produce profits for their employer by acquiring research grants. This changes the entire standard concept of what basic scientific research is for (i.e., generation of new knowledge and discovery of the truth), and, converts faculty scientists into businessmen and businesswomen.
How would adding big money for research grants affect science at universities?
Some good effects for university science include: (1) a greater number of faculty scientists will receive research grants and thus be able to perform research investigations, (2) more faculty grantees will receive full funding instead of only partial funding (i.e., partial funding necessarily always restrains what can be done), and, (3) additional universities would be able to participate in new ‘big science’ projects.
Many negative effects also can be recognized: (1) universities, their science departments, and faculty scientists now all are business entities; (2) the total income acquired in each year becomes the standard measure for quality of faculty scientists, science departments, and entire universities; (3) since research results now are increasingly for sale (see: “How Science Died on 9/11” by Kevin Ryan and Paul Craig Roberts ), there will be increased cheating at research and more frequent allegations of research misconduct by university faculty employees; (4) science departments will have many more involvements with companies and lawyers, and, will evolve to become either close partners or commercial competitors of businesses involving pharmaceutical products, engineering developments, and new technologies; (5) the number of science faculty holding an untenured soft-money appointment (i.e., their entire salary comes from their research grants) will increase since that change substantially decreases expenditures for hard-money salaries; (6) new buildings will be constructed to house shared research labs for all the new soft-money faculty; (7) teaching of science students in graduate schools will expand to include courses on running a business, business law, dealing with finances, and other subjects needed by doctoral scientists working in commerce and industry; and, (8) as a result of all these effects, many more students entering U.S. graduate schools to prepare for a career in science at universities will change their aim to working in industrial research.
The conversion of university science into a business solves financial problems for modern universities, but also creates some new and very destructive difficulties. In particular, shifting scientific research into a profit-seeking business causes degradation of university science and degeneration of faculty scientists.
The entire system for supporting scientific research at universities needs to be changed! If left untouched, today’s system problem in academic science is so grave that it even could result in the death of university research (see: “Could Science and Research Now Be Dying?” )! New ways to support research in academia are badly needed, and could stop the current decay, corruption, and waste of money and time in modern university science.
 Dr.M, 2016. “Huge Additional Research Money Will Be Bad for Faculty Scientists and Their Investigations!” Available on the internet at: http://dr-monsrs.net/2016/10/25/huge-additional-money-for-research-will-be-bad-for-faculty-scientists-and-their-investigations/ .
 NIH Research Portfolio Online Reporting Tools (RePORT), 2016. “Research Project Success Rates by NIH Institute for 2015” Available on the internet at: https://report.nih.gov/success_rates/Success_ByIC.cfm .
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