"Our greatest responsibility is to be good ancestors."

-Jonas Salk

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Newfie Funding and Science

I just came across a very scary financial blog, and I'm duly terrified. I write here, though, to point out that one of its points applies to science as well:
Tranching out the money -- committing to $700-billion, but doling out the money to Treasury in dribs and drabs -- is dodgey, depending on the number and the size of the tranches. Too many and you end up with what the private investing business calls "Newfie funding". It is when you fund something partway to the goal, then have to fund it again when the first money predictably runs out, and then again and again and again -- usually to the point that the company in question spends most of its time begging for money rather than doing business. It is common among dumb and unprofessional investors who don't trust their own instincts, and who don't understand that some things just take as much money as they take.
I'm not saying this is true about the $700G, mind you. I have no idea what to do about the financial mess. It just occurs to me that science is exactly like that.

Far too many, and I would say most conversations among scientists (at least in America, at least nowadays) are either about funding or about jockeying for position. This may be a major component of why not much interesting work is getting done anymore.

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