bombthrower commenter whimple opines thusly in a recent comment:
The solution is to get rid of tenure altogether. That way the universities can just fire people who can't compete for grants, which will automatically take care of the problem.
The original post was on a UK funding agency's new policy that, if translated to the US/NIH-funded environment, would be a career ending policy for many scientists.
Another regular commenter, qaz, defended tenure:
Huh? Is your goal to kill science? Or just to drive it underground?
We have enough problems with the current "translational" fashion that science is only good if it serves immediate needs. (Something we all know to be wrong, but seemingly can't convince the NIH system.) The reason we have federally funded research is that science takes 30 years to come to fruition. No company is going to do research that will help the entire world in 30 years. Forcing faculty to chase immediate grants will put us all in that same boat.
What tenure does is it explicitly decouples science from immediate grant/fashion needs. Sure, there's some eventual deadwood, but in my observation, the number of faculty pursuing crazy ideas that pan out far outnumber the deadwood. Tenure allows scientists to pursue goals independently of grants.
I dunno. Tenure is a nice fantasy. And a great gig if you have it. But in my type of job category, as with those of many of my peers, it isn't meaningful. Perhaps that is because we simply haven't gotten to that stage of career where we might be tempted to be dead wood? Or because tenure or not, taking so-called career risks by going in different directions and working on things that may not bear fruit are still very risky.
qaz ended with this:
The opportunity to pursue long-term goals without fear of reprisal is one of the major perks that draw top talent to science.
I don't see where the current state of "tenure" privilege either provides this opportunity or can possibly be a perq to draw top talent into scientific fields.