Working Scientist podcast: How to beat research funding's boom and bust cycle

How governments decide when to boost basic research funding, and when to scale back support.
Julie Gould is a freelance science writer in London.

Search for this author in:

Julie Gould and Michael Teitelbaum discuss the highs and lows of funding cycles and how to survive them as an early career researcher.

In the penultimate episode of this six-part series on grants and funding, Julie Gould asks how early career researchers can develop their careers in the face of funding's "boom and bust" cycle and the short-termism it engenders.

Governments are swayed by political uncertainty and technological developments, argues Michael Teitelbaum, author of Falling Behind? Boom, Bust, and the Global Race for Scientific Talent.

In the US, for example, space research funding dramatically increased after Soviet Russia launched the Sputnik 1 satellite in 1957, ending after the 1969 moon landing.

Similar booms followed in the 1970s, 80s, and 90s, says Teitelbaum, a Wertheim Fellow in the Labor and Worklife Program at Harvard Law School and senior advisor to the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation in New York.

But he argues that they are unsustainable and can have a negative impact on the careers of junior scientists and their research. Will Brexit trigger a funding downturn, and if so, for how long? Watch this space, says Teitelbaum.

Sponsored content: European Research Council (ERC)

Retired Portuguese Navy Captain Joaquim Alves, a principal investigator at the Centre for the History of Science and Technology, University of Lisbon, leads the ERC project MEDEA-CHART, dedicated to the study of medieval and early modern nautical charts. He describes his career and the support he has received from the ERC.

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the daily Nature Briefing email newsletter

Stay up to date with what matters in science and why, handpicked from Nature and other publications worldwide.

Sign Up