Research 'Pyramids'

In his analysis of the research funding crisis, T.V. Rajan (The Scientist, April 29, 1996, page 10) correctly identified several serious problems, including a devaluation of scholarship, an emphasis on quantity rather than quality of publication, exploitation of junior associates, and overpopulation of the research community. All of these problems are almost unavoidable consequences of the pyramidal nature of large-scale academic research. Growth of the pyramid, which requires continuous consu

Allen Minton
Jun 9, 1996

In his analysis of the research funding crisis, T.V. Rajan (The Scientist, April 29, 1996, page 10) correctly identified several serious problems, including a devaluation of scholarship, an emphasis on quantity rather than quality of publication, exploitation of junior associates, and overpopulation of the research community.

All of these problems are almost unavoidable consequences of the pyramidal nature of large-scale academic research. Growth of the pyramid, which requires continuous consumption of funds and manpower, has become an end in itself.

Meaningful education, scholarship, collegiality, caution, and objectivity have become impediments to the production of ever larger quantities of data and numbers of publications. To an already alarming extent, these traditional scientific values seem to be considered expendable if not altogether irrelevant.

Scientific ethics can and should be protected by the adoption of funding practices that inhibit the growth of academic research pyramids, such as a limitation on total...

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