Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Impact schmimpact. Now give me some money.

Apparently NIH is now asking grant applicants to include a segment about the impact their proposed project will have. The problems with this are myriad. First, this means that for this section of the grant the most points will be awarded to... the best bull-shitter. That's right: "your project will lead to a cure for cancer while also preventing Alzheimer's AND save the polar bears?!? Well here you go! Are you sure we can't give you more money?"  Please! Like anyone could have predicted that studying fluorescent and luminescent proteins in jellyfish and fireflies would have led to pretty much ALL the major medical breakthroughs and drug discoveries of the last few decades. I'm pretty sure their discoverers weren't thinking about it at the time. They were probably just thinking " hey, that animal glows in the dark! That's pretty cool! How does that work?" Bam! Nobel prizes and major biomedical breakthroughs all around! Congrats everybody. But don't take my overly sarcastic word for it. Check out this editorial in the latest issue of science for a much more eloquent breakdown of this unfortunate trend in science policy: