Wednesday, March 18, 2009

An interesting idea: put new grads to work on research

There is an interesting proposal today from Sam Wang and Sandra Aamodt via the New York Times. They propose that rather than funding traditional research grants competitions with the large science component ($21.5 Billion for Federal R&D) of the government stimulus package. They propose
using some of the windfall to provide an opportunity for fresh college graduates to pursue two years of research in the nation’s service while the job market is bottoming out. Call it “Research for America.” Our proposal would put young Americans to work and support science — without setting off a later bust cycle in research support, as previous funding booms have done.
Comment: This sounds like a good idea to me, for at least a part of the funding. It would probably generate new employment; more grants via the standard grants programs might not do that. The young researchers, with proper guidance, could produce useful results. Some of them would go on to other jobs with a better understanding of research and the value of scientific evidence; some would go back to get doctorates and become professional researchers.

I would suppose that the way to do this would be to create a grant program to fund university and other organization proposals for small research programs. The proposals would have to justify the relevance and importance of the research, would have to demonstrate that young people could be recruited to do the research, and that there would be suitable guidance to guarantee quality of the experience and results. JAD

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