Research kudos does not need a price tag

University of California, Davis, USA.

Search for this author in:

University of Exeter, Penryn, Cornwall, UK.

Search for this author in:

We are concerned that the focus on generating grant income to fill university coffers penalizes science that is good value for money. As research money dwindles, the winning of funds seems to be emerging as the way to judge performance. This criterion is used by the UK universities’ Research Excellence Framework, for example, and to assess researchers for hiring or promotion.

Huge strides are being made in our field of whole-organism biology owing to large collaborative grants that help to pay for salaries and equipment. However, important oases of the biological sciences are relatively unaffected by the benefits of big grants. Examples include biological modelling, ecological projects in the developing world and meta-analyses based on literature mining.

At a time when economic efficiency is paramount in publicly funded areas such as health and education, an undue emphasis on generating money could drive scientists to compete for limited public funds simply for career purposes. In our view, funding success must not become a disproportionate factor in gauging scientific achievement.

Nature 553, 281 (2018)

doi: 10.1038/d41586-018-00644-y

Nature Briefing

An essential round-up of science news, opinion and analysis, delivered to your inbox every weekday.