Once upon a time, there was a rule that someone can further his or her career by inventing something important and selling it for a proper price. The income enabled to expand research and to create more income that meant more research and so on. If applied properly, this principle favored the gifted and pooled resources in the hands of those who were the most capable and could make the most of it.
This method had its drawbacks of course. In fauceir analysis, we have to discriminate two sorts of drawback
- the interrupted signaling cascade
- imprecision that in the worst case leads to cheating
ad 1) If the inventor was not a talented entrepreneur at the same time, this control loop didn’t work and the inventor did not got the necessary resources to proceed his research. The history is plenty of destinies like this one, the inventor of a sewing machine who died in absolute poverty, because he failed to properly sell his invetion.
Ad 2) Of course, cheating happened too. People who were so talented to convince customers to bye some crap for an exorbitant price, became rich without advancing science or technology.
Therefore in the middle of the last century an other principle to select gifted scientists and to focus money in their hands evolved. The grant application system. As discussed before, this system is far from perfect too. Though it diminishes the failure of the interrupted signaling cascade in one place (entrepreneurial skills are no longer necessary) it it created an other problem. A brilliant scientist is not necessarily a successful application writer. And imprecision and cheating become more evident these days. As this article demonstrates, it is no longer legitimate to assume an application contains only trustworthy information. Instead, a convoluted system interconnected criteria evolved that makes an application difficult to validate, and furthermore as these application, predominantly contain secondary criteria such as published papers and grants received before, the grant driven research is veering off practicability and usefulness. Grant industry favors research that is easy to apply for and not what is useful.
I wonder if it wouldn’t be worth returning to the former rule.