Date: December 7, 1992

I am sometimes asked, in the course of my proposal-writing workshops, "Why would someone want to serve as a grant reviewer? It's hard work for only a small honorarium." I answer that it's a way for senior scientists to pay back the scientific community for what it's done for them.

Alan Schoenfeld, a professor of education and mathematics at the University of California, Berkeley, thinks similar dynamics in family life provide a good analogy. "Children do not repay their parents directly, but rather by being good parents to their own children," he says. "The same sort of thing holds for scientists, their mentors, and their students."

But the best time to repay your "debt" is probably not when you are--perhaps simultaneously--beginning a challenging career, starting a family, and coping with financial worries. The inherent urge to solve research problems, as well as competition at work, impose...

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