I was having lunch with some old ex-lab friends. Unlike me, who left the lab at the end of the 90s, all three of them have kept on doing research and medicine and have their own labs with students, post-docs, and techs. The good news is that their research is progressing, the bad news is that funding is tighter than ever.
I had asked them who was writing a grant (of course, knowing that one always is writing some grant). There was an awkward pause as all three of them seemed to be lost in their thoughts, then they gave me an update of where things were at, since last I was in science, listing some stats to show how things were getting tighter.
When I left research, I had the naïve idea that I would no longer need to hustle for money. But, we all know, the biz world is just the same. Yet, for sure, the biz world seems to have a multitude of revenue and funding options that don't seem to be available to institutional scientists.
I feel that the whole endeavor of Science (I come from a biology background, so my thoughts are around that area, really) has been stuck in the 60s - the way we fund science, the expectations of the apprenticeship (PhD and Postdoc), the publishing and reputation cycle, the job progression - all seem to have been built in a model that came into being in the science boom of the 50s and 60s and really hasn't changed.
Am I missing something? I've been out 10 years, but it seems like nothing has improved. Funding is tighter, people still can't get academic jobs, and publishing is getting more onerous.
How do I envision the future of institutional science?
I'm not sure.
I've mentioned how science publishing could change, taking cues from the current way we use the Social Web. I think DIYBio points to how science could change how we explore the natural world and who does it. And, brilliant folks, like at Biocurious and Pink Army Coop, are looking at ways to diversify how we fund and participate in funding the future of science.
In summary, the business of institutional science is sclerotic and the clues to how we move forward are right in front of us. And, as usual, institutional culture is in the way of this change.
Do you think the way we do science should change? Can it? Will it in our lifetime? How do you envision the future of science or are we fine the way we are?
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