February 6th, 2007

Zerhouni for a Day: A Challenge

The Problem: The NIH’s budget doubled over the past few years, and the NSF is currently working on a budget doubling of its own. Despite this vast influx of new federal funding, approval rates for grant proposals at the NIH have plummeted, and similar things are happening at NSF. Nobel laureate Robert Weinberg: “The funding … read more


December 21st, 2006

The R01 Lottery?

Think of an R01 application as a lottery ticket. The cost of the ticket is the effort required to prepare the application. The expected payoff is the product of the average amount of an award and the probability of receiving one. During the first few years of the NIH budget doubling, the amount of an … read more


December 19th, 2006

Watching a Train Wreck, Part 2

We’ve seen the effects of the NIH budget doubling on the grad student population. What about postdocs? The NSF publishes an annual headcount of postdocs in academic institutions, and sure enough, the number of postdocs went up over the budget doubling period, 1998-2003. However, once you dig into the numbers a bit, some interesting things … read more


December 13th, 2006

Watching a Train Wreck, Part 1

Effect Measure suggests that the current NIH problems have arisen because new NIH funds led to more grad students and postdocs, and these people are now applying for grants. Is this right? First off, did the NIH budget doubling lead to more graduate students? Almost certainly. Back in the 1970s, when the bottom first fell … read more


November 29th, 2006

Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it?

The launching of Sputnik in 1957 triggered not only the space race, but also a large new influx of NSF support for graduate education. Throughout the 1960’s, the number of science and engineering PhDs granted rose. The supply of new PhDs eventually increased well beyond the economy’s ability to employ them as researchers, and around … read more