More thoughts on Professor Noonan's lengthy criticism of the current state of NIH extramural research funding.
Realizing that not all aspiring scientists have what it takes to compete in this business, and recognizing that there needs to be a winnowing process at some point in the matriculation of an aspiring academic researcher, NIH has taken it upon itself to make this at the competitive renewal stage rather than the traditional initial funding stage. In doing this they have taken a substantial portion of an ever diminishing pool of funds for competitive renewals and established investigator grants, and thrown them into a large assortment of new investigator awards and special projects. What this results in is a very limited pool of remaining funds being competed for by a very large pool of independent investigators that includes Nobel Laureates, National Academy Members, research institute scientists and academic scientists. Unfortunately, the vast majority of academic scientists, with their teaching responsibilities and small lab operations, are relegated to the very little that is left after the funding initiatives and Wal-Mart operations have captured their piece of the pie.
Says it all, doesn't it? That and the part about the winnowing process being at the initial funding stage. BS. Look, perhaps it is true that once upon a time anyone who managed to land a grant and then pretty much had a pulse could keep getting renewed. And now it is a little harder.
But the entry card for starting scientists is no easier. Every bit of demographic and funding success data supports this. So the notion that there is a flood of easy-street new appointees competing for Established investigator's private funding pool is a bit ridiculous.
More than likely these poor Established investigator's would not be competitive for *jobs*, never mind NIH grants, if they had faced the same competitive environment our postdocs face today.
Maybe people like Professor Noonan should be grateful for the easy run they had because of circumstances, not intrinsic worthiness. And then, you know, STFU about "their" reserved pool of sinecure funding, and how "unqualified" reviewers are robbing them of it.