Funding research

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[This thread was forked from https://www.physicsforums.com/threads/the-pros-and-cons-of-pop-science.943499/]
I think that some scientists in particular theoreticians, need to occasionally use some popularising skills in order to justify their work to those who hold the purse strings. Quite often some or all of the people who fund the work have very little or no formal training in the relevant science being investigated but despite that need to get a reasonable idea of what the work entails and why the money is being spent.
 
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Quite often some or all of the people who fund the work have very little or no formal training in the relevant science being investigated
Hmm, I am mostly familiar with the grant process for the National Institutes of Health in the USA, but it isn’t remotely like you describe. The grant review panel and process is staffed almost exclusively with scientists well versed in the relevant science. They understand the field of study, the unanswered questions, and generally have a good sense of what approaches are likely to succeed. They certainly have no need for popularizations.
 
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Hmm, I am mostly familiar with the grant process for the National Institutes of Health in the USA, but it isn’t remotely like you describe. The grant review panel and process is staffed almost exclusively with scientists well versed in the relevant science. They understand the field of study, the unanswered questions, and generally have a good sense of what approaches are likely to succeed. They certainly have no need for popularizations.
That makes sense but who gives the funds to the review panel? I think you can trace a lot of it back to the tax payer and quite rightly many tax payers, and other funders would want a reasonable, not necessarily detailed, idea of what their money is being used for. In addition to that I think that many people are happy to fund research related to health matters one reason being due to the potential benefits that might result from the research.
When I wrote the post above I was thinking in particular of research scientists whose work, by its nature, is more abstruse and where it is difficult to see any practical applications that might arise from the work. How, for example, did a bunch of physicists, engineers and others manage to get funding for Cern and its role in hunting for the Higgs particle? I imagine that somewhere along the funding line many non experts, including politicians had to be given some idea about what the research entails and what the Higgs particle is reputed to be.
 
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How, for example, did a bunch of physicists, engineers and others manage to get funding for Cern and its role in hunting for the Higgs particle?
CERN has a fixed budget from payments of its member states. The question is at most, how scientists are funded, who spend time on projects there. However, I'm pretty sure that is a local problem depending on the country they come from.
 
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CERN has a fixed budget from payments of its member states. The question is at most, how scientists are funded, who spend time on projects there. However, I'm pretty sure that is a local problem depending on the country they come from.
Planned research usually has to be approved by funding institutions and that can include governments. Everybody involved in funding needs to be convinced that the tax payers money will be well spent and that requires that they have some idea of what the research is about and any possible benefits that might arise from it.
 
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Planned research usually has to be approved by funding institutions and that can include governments. Everybody involved in funding needs to be convinced that the tax payers money will be well spent and that requires that they have some idea of what the research is about and any possible benefits that might arise from it.
https://fap-dep.web.cern.ch/rpc/member-states-contributions

You cannot run such a large machine on a case by case decision. This wouldn't make sense at all.

I do, however, suspect, that the Anglo-American method might be different from funding processes in other countries, which are less Smithian. But this view of mine is mainly supported by local differences to the American system and might be a bit outdated as well as not applicable to European countries in general, specíafically not to the UK which often has similar structures than the US - would be interesting to read a study why.
 
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but it isn’t remotely like you describe
Hmm...didn't even slow him down.

If the universe operated as Dadface described, maybe the conclusions would be right. But it doesn't, so it isn't.

In our universe, as Dale said, panels make most of the recommendations. If Congress or the Executive needs more than that, they commission a study from the National Academies or similar. They do not do so by reading Our Friend The Atom.
 
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That makes sense but who gives the funds to the review panel? I think you can trace a lot of it back to the tax payer and quite rightly many tax payers, and other funders would want a reasonable, not necessarily detailed, idea of what their money is being used for.
Of course the funds all come from the taxpayers, but the funding decisions do not. For NIH the politicians only make overall funding decisions at the program level. I.e. they decide on a total budget for NIH and sometimes earmark a portion of that total for a specific broad category, like a disease or group of patients. The remainder of the decision process is merit based.

The politicians do appear to exert influence over the process, but it appears to be motivated by straight “pork” rather than by pop sci. Meaning they earmark funds for broad categories that are particular strengths of institutions in their constituencies so that money will flow back home.

https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/stealth-earmarks-undermine-nihs-merit-system/article/25737

Again, I don’t know specifically how it works for other granting agencies or countries, but I would suspect that in most cases it is like the NIH: professional scientists are involved at all levels in either an advisory or decision-making role and the involved politicians ulterior motivations are based on “pork” not pop sci.
 
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Hmm...didn't even slow him down.

If the universe operated as Dadface described, maybe the conclusions would be right. But it doesn't, so it isn't.

In our universe, as Dale said, panels make most of the recommendations. If Congress or the Executive needs more than that, they commission a study from the National Academies or similar. They do not do so by reading Our Friend The Atom.
The results of any commissioned studies will be reported back to Congress and or or the Executive and in a way that the recipients of the report can get a reasonable idea of what the study reveals and that, depending on what the study is about, will often demand a great deal of simplification. ( But not necessarily down to the level of Our Friend The Atom. :smile:)
 
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[This thread was forked from https://www.physicsforums.com/threads/the-pros-and-cons-of-pop-science.943499/]
I think that some scientists in particular theoreticians, need to occasionally use some popularising skills in order to justify their work to those who hold the purse strings. Quite often some or all of the people who fund the work have very little or no formal training in the relevant science being investigated but despite that need to get a reasonable idea of what the work entails and why the money is being spent.
Have you ever written a research funding proposal?

If you have, especially when seeking funding from DOE and NSF, you would have noticed that you have to write a one-paragraph summary to be used as a briefing for members of Congress and other government officials to explain what you are doing and why it is important.

If you go to any of the public funding agency websites, anyone can look up what is being funded and why.

If any elected officials wish to know more about such-and-such project, both the funding agency and the grant receiver are often more than welcome to provide an extensive overview.

And not only that, universities, research labs, etc. often put out press releases on many significant (and sometime, even less significant) discoveries, advances, etc.

What more do you need?

The problem here has always been that it has been a one-way street. There ARE a lot of resources to find out about things, but one must make an EFFORT to look it up! The public and politicians are often very LAZY, with an entitled attitude that the information should be spoonfed to them. Often, they don't even bother to look it up but rather, rely on their ignorance!

But sometimes, he said, the problem is just old-fashioned ignorance. Several times he has found himself “rushing to the floor” to head off colleagues ready to eliminate financing for endeavors whose importance they did not understand.

Once it was game theory. The person seeking the cut did not seem to realize that game theory had to do with interactions in economics, behavior and other social sciences, not sports, Mr. Ehlers recounted.

Then there was the time he rose to defend A.T.M. research against a colleague who thought it should be left to the banking industry. In this case the initials stood for asynchronous transfer mode, a protocol for fiber-optic data transfer.
In other words, the information is out there, but they are all useless if one doesn't actually go out and look for them. The laziness is even worse for our politicians who have staffers on hand to be able to do the research grunt work to straighten things out, but obviously, this idiocy still happens!

Can scientists advertise their work more? Sure! But a handshake requires two hands. The public and the politician must also show some interest and effort to understand the science that are already out there and written JUST for their benefit!

Zz.
 
  • #12
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Of course the funds all come from the taxpayers, but the funding decisions do not. For NIH the politicians only make overall funding decisions at the program level. I.e. they decide on a total budget for NIH and sometimes earmark a portion of that total for a specific broad category, like a disease or group of patients. The remainder of the decision process is merit based.

The politicians do appear to exert influence over the process, but it appears to be motivated by straight “pork” rather than by pop sci. Meaning they earmark funds for broad categories that are particular strengths of institutions in their constituencies so that money will flow back home.

https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/stealth-earmarks-undermine-nihs-merit-system/article/25737

Again, I don’t know specifically how it works for other granting agencies or countries, but I would suspect that in most cases it is like the NIH: professional scientists are involved at all levels in either an advisory or decision-making role and the involved politicians ulterior motivations are based on “pork” not pop sci.
But what information do the politicians use in coming to their overall funding decisions?
 
  • #13
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Have you ever written a research funding proposal?

If you have, especially when seeking funding from DOE and NSF, you would have noticed that you have to write a one-paragraph summary to be used as a briefing for members of Congress and other government officials to explain what you are doing and why it is important.

If you go to any of the public funding agency websites, anyone can look up what is being funded and why.

If any elected officials wish to know more about such-and-such project, both the funding agency and the grant receiver are often more than welcome to provide an extensive overview.

And not only that, universities, research labs, etc. often put out press releases on many significant (and sometime, even less significant) discoveries, advances, etc.

What more do you need?

The problem here has always been that it has been a one-way street. There ARE a lot of resources to find out about things, but one must make an EFFORT to look it up! The public and politicians are often very LAZY, with an entitled attitude that the information should be spoonfed to them. Often, they don't even bother to look it up but rather, rely on their ignorance!
This thread has been split from a thread about the pros and cons of pop science. And the main point I have been trying to make here is that, amongst other things, the people responsible for making decisions and providing funds should be reasonably well informed about what the funds are to be used for. This can often require that the advisers use some pop science skills to make difficult concepts partly understandable.
In other words, the information is out there, but they are all useless if one doesn't actually go out and look for them. The laziness is even worse for our politicians who have staffers on hand to be able to do the research grunt work to straighten things out, but obviously, this idiocy still happens!

Can scientists advertise their work more? Sure! But a handshake requires two hands. The public and the politician must also show some interest and effort to understand the science that are already out there and written JUST for their benefit!

Zz.
 
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  • #14
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But what information do the politicians use in coming to their overall funding decisions?
Here it is usually congressional briefings and constituents. In particular the constituents are the likely motivation for the “pork”. Dr X from Local U, an eminent researcher in websurfingosis, meets with the politician and passionately explains the devastating consequences of websurfingosis and recommends earmarking some of the budget for that.
 
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Does matter, because it appears that you didn't even read what I wrote. I addressed EXACTLY what you wrote, but it did not seem to get through to you.

The information is THERE! All of us who received federal funding HAVE to write a briefing for members of congress on what we did and why. So they ARE already being given all the info that they need.

They just don't care to read it!

Zz.
ZapperZ. Firstly, sorry for my mistake in posting my previous message. It was actually my second attempt to do so. My first attempt came out as above and so I deleted it. I was in a rush to go out and so I quickly rewrote my message and posted again. But the same thing happened. At the time I didn't know why and so I did a quick remedial job to highlight the different messages. Later I realised what probably went wrong...see later if you're interested.

Secondly I did read what you wrote and I found it to be informative. But I was not sure if it addressed the main point I was trying to make and what you replied to. And so I wrote a brief message hoping it would clarify my point. Please let me reiterate:

The main point I was trying to make was related to the pros and cons of pop science. I wanted to point out that certain non experts involved in funding need to have a certain level of knowledge of what the funding is for. To me that seems to be obvious. I was using the specific example of Cern where big money, billions, is involved.

That money is not just given away. Countries that contribute(d) to the fund need(ed) to know that their money is well spent. And that, in turn, requires that certain non experts, in the UK that includes the Chancellor of the Exchequer, need to know a bit about the physics and engineering involved. That, in turn, requires that experts, including certain Chief Scientific Advisers to relevant Government Departments, are able to use certain communication skills to convey, in understandable language, the essence of what it is that's being researched into.

You made the point that funding and other information is available to read and that more extensive overviews can be made available. I'm assuming that some or all the information is presented in a way that gives the non specialist a certain level of understanding. If so that's relevent to the point I'm making.

I think I know what went wrong when I posted my earlier. I scrolled to a place where there was a big gap and wrote my message in that gap thinking that I had gone past the /QUOTE word in square brackets.
 
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Here it is usually congressional briefings and constituents. In particular the constituents are the likely motivation for the “pork”. Dr X from Local U, an eminent researcher in websurfingosis, meets with the politician and passionately explains the devastating consequences of websurfingosis and recommends earmarking some of the budget for that.
Actually, I do not think that that is a common way that fundings are allocated.

If we discount irrational splurges in various pet projects, most of the allocations of funding are done via proposals and guidelines put forward by the relevant agencies. For example, DOE will put forward to elected officials and to the executive branch (if asked) their recommendations on what to fund, and how much. DOE, in turn, often will make such decisions based on recommendations of various panels and steering committees (such as the P5 committee in US HEP community). Many of these panels and committees will provide White Papers to DOE on where a particular field is heading, what are the important issues, and what should be funded. The various DOE managers in each areas will often use these recommendations to provide elected officials on funding information.

Of course, this does not guarantee that the elected officials will follow such recommendations. But in most cases, these are the info they start with to know what to fund and by how much.

Zz.
 
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ZapperZ. Firstly, sorry for my mistake in posting my previous message. It was actually my second attempt to do so. My first attempt came out as above and so I deleted it. I was in a rush to go out and so I quickly rewrote my message and posted again. But the same thing happened. At the time I didn't know why and so I did a quick remedial job to highlight the different messages. Later I realised what probably went wrong...see later if you're interested.

Secondly I did read what you wrote and I found it to be informative. But I was not sure if it addressed the main point I was trying to make and what you replied to. And so I wrote a brief message hoping it would clarify my point. Please let me reiterate:

The main point I was trying to make was related to the pros and cons of pop science. I wanted to point out that certain non experts involved in funding need to have a certain level of knowledge of what the funding is for. To me that seems to be obvious. I was using the specific example of Cern where big money, billions, is involved.

That money is not just given away. Countries that contribute(d) to the fund need(ed) to know that their money is well spent. And that, in turn, requires that certain non experts, in the UK that includes the Chancellor of the Exchequer, need to know a bit about the physics and engineering involved. That, in turn, requires that experts, including certain Chief Scientific Advisers to relevant Government Departments, are able to use certain communication skills to convey, in understandable language, the essence of what it is that's being researched into.

You made the point that funding and other information is available to read and that more extensive overviews can be made available. I'm assuming that some or all the information is presented in a way that gives the non specialist a certain level of understanding. If so that's relevent to the point I'm making.

I think I know what went wrong when I posted my earlier. I scrolled to a place where there was a big gap and wrote my message in that gap thinking that I had gone past the /QUOTE word in square brackets.
I will repeat ONE MORE TIME: All of us who received federal fundings are required to write a "layman's" version of what we do that are meant for elected officials. This is something we have to provide either when we applied for funding, or when we write our yearly reports to funding agency to justify the money that we received.

Zz.
 
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I will repeat ONE MORE TIME: All of us who received federal fundings are required to write a "layman's" version of what we do that are meant for elected officials. This is something we have to provide either when we applied for funding, or when we write our yearly reports to funding agency to justify the money that we received.

Zz.
Thank you. Your use of the word "laymans" has clarified the matter.
 
  • #19
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most of the allocations of funding are done via proposals and guidelines put forward by the relevant agencies.
That is what I meant by congressional briefings. I realize now that I made it sound like verbal testimony. I meant the brief summaries that are specifically intended for the politicians that are part of the proposals.
 
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