Bugs, flaws, and FUBAR in the science funding system may have the unintended benefit of slowing science down. I'm not qualified to speak to the details of the funding system, but overall slowing science down seems a good plan, even though that is unlikely the intent of the funding system.


A notion that science should proceed as quickly as possible is a 19th century knowledge philosophy which was indeed rational in the long era of knowledge scarcity. A great many scientists seem not to have realized that we no longer live in that old knowledge scarcity era, but in a new very different era characterized by knowledge exploding in every direction at what seems an accelerating pace.

What science needs more than new funding is a new philosophical foundation.

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Mar 29·edited Mar 29

I've had about a 30% (ish) funding rate on federal grants, mostly NSF, mostly in the 90s and 00s.

Looking back, I can see almost no correlation between whether something was funded and how good I thought it was at the time or even in retrospect. I eventually decided that to way too large an extent, sucessful granting was more like shooting birds on the wing than shooting stationary targets. I.e. it was at least as important to put a lot of lead in the air as to aim carefully.

Certainly, revising failed proposals helps (average NSF grants are funded on the 2.7th submission) but I would now say this was partly because chance (resubmitting a grant = more chances to get a hit) helped as much as improved writing and targeting.

This isn't a slam on the program officers, who wrote typically very good, but a system that fails as you describe.

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