Abel Pharmboy pointed to a piece in The Scientist entitled "Losing Your Lab" which discusses the plight of the soft-money researcher who has run out of funding. Actually, the plight of one researcher in particular. The commentary is, however, getting interesting and I thought many of our readers might want to go play.
There are a couple things in the article however that seem a bit off-kilter to me.
one morning when he arrived at work and went online, he found that, to his surprise, the grant application he had submitted to explore this hypothesis had been returned, without review. For many scientists, this news would be discouraging. But for Schneyer, who was funded largely on soft money, it was much worse. It meant he had to close his lab.
See what I mean? Grants are only rarely "returned without review". Triaged maybe? Read down a little bit and you come up with maybe two triages of one of his grants and a single triage of this one under discussion? Sorry, but for a soft money job, this guy wasn't trying very hard. When you are down to one remaining grant, you need to be submitting something each and every round my friends. Yes it sucks that this has to be done but this is the freaking system!!
After two tries, Schneyer submitted a grant as a new application, then revised it twice more, for a total of five submissions. Then, it was funded.
Yup. Sounds about right. The article seems to be saying that he's getting screwed or something. I mean it tries to make the general point about how this sucks as a system but it ends up trying to convince that this one guy was hit unusually hard. Not so.
By 2005, 3,896 needed renewals of their grants, but only 1,262 requests were awarded; the success rate had fallen below 33%. So among nearly 4,000 scientists who were working off NIH funds in 2005, more than 2,600 lost that support. In 2007, more than 4,100 scientists were denied renewals of their R01s.
This is just irresponsible journalism. What are they trying to say here? It implies, of course, that these scientists were unfairly cut off from all NIH funding. Those of us who are in the game know this is far from the real story. How many were A2 requests? How many PIs had other projects ongoing? The phrasing within the context of this article implies that 4,100 scientists were left looking for new jobs just because of not getting a specific grant renewed. Ug.
Anyway, the situation does blow for soft money scientists. So, like I said at the top, go over there and comment.