Strangled science: Govt asks dumb questions and scientists lie to get grants

Strangled science: Govt asks dumb questions and scientists lie to get grants. Joanne Nova point reports on a recent study that showed scholars in the UK and Australia are contemptuous of impact statements and often sensationalize and embellish them. She wonders:

We reward those who exaggerate, then wonder what happened to the straight-talkers. … But after decades of the grant game, how many real scientists are left?

By Darwinian selection, modern “scientists” are those who thrive in a bureaucratic maze of box ticking, buzzwords, and (to use the exact but unsavory word) “bullshitting”.

In response a friend sent me an email of his experience, and I recommended he put it as an anonymous comment under Joanne’s article, which he did.

During the mid to late nineties I was consulting for $350/hour to various members of the Co-operative Research Centre (CRC) program. I was also collecting data on the CRC program on 1788 individual CRC research projects towards my doctoral dissertation (not submitted). A forty year old PhD student rolling in cash. …

To cut a long story short, I discovered through both my consulting role, where I helped them write their applications, and as a PhD student, that the researchers had churned through their mountains of cash and produced hundreds of cardboard boxes of research reports and published papers but little in the way of actual prototypes or commercial output (~$12 million). …

What staggered me at the time was the arbitrary nature of a scientist and her science. Forced to beg for funds and to apply via tick the box/respond to nonsense statements forms in order to pluck a suitable money tree, all simply to study their passion.

Of course my efforts to make my findings public saw me lose my cushy flow of consulting jobs with the CRC program but saw me acquire the best of the 1788 technologies sitting in cardboard boxes and going on to work with BHP and others.

Catallaxy ran with the story, referring to an article on the Economy of Cheating:

Students cheat. Educators struggle to respond, sometimes blaming themselves for not making courses sufficiently interesting or relevant and sometimes engaging in a battle of wits or technologies with their students to prevent cheating. Sometimes we in higher education try to address cheating as a moral problem and sometimes as a pedagogical one. Another way to understand cheating, however, is to borrow an insight from Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential campaign, namely, “It’s the economy, stupid.”