Important questions from Paul Knoepfler:
In today’s transactional dominated world, scientists are spending an increasing proportion of their time basically fundraising. Writing grants. Honing grantsmanship. Doing experiments specifically for grant preliminary data rather than driven by transformative ideas. Working the philanthropy side of things.
By contrast, transformative activities would include these kinds of things: reading, thinking, teaching, mentoring, model building, listening to others, doing risky pilot experiments, etc.
So are you as transformative a scientist as you think or has transactional science become a dominant vein in your daily professional life? How is this playing out more generally in science?
Can you have the best of both worlds to be transformative and transactional?
I think the answer to the last question is that sure, one can be both transformative and transactional...and even still have fun in the lab. It is possible.
Is it better to spend less time raising funds? Better to spend less time working for preliminary data and more time working to get the paper closed out?
Nobody is in this merely to raise support for their lab.
But to ask this question is to be in denial.
The question has a bit of the upraised nose sniff to it. A bit of a slap at those who are in a situation in which raising laboratory funding looms large right now. It is a pat on the back for those who happen to be flush with cash and can go back to thinking about fun science for a little while.
My problem is that rewarding the people who don't have to work for their support very hard with more easy support just hardens the silo around a lucky few and makes it even harder for the rest of those poor chumps.
We (and here I mean Francis Collins and his comments on HHMI-like support for a select few) continue to think that success is the province of the brilliant deserving few. This gets in the way of recognizing that it is the outcome of giving any of a number of deserving someones the chance to succeed. It therefore, has the potential to give us even less bang for our funding buck since a select few are unlikely over the long haul to be as creative as a crowd would be.