This is the course blog for PHIL 450: Ethics in Science (for Spring 2009 at the University of Idaho).
These are truly sad stories but may have commercial solutions. To fund an accomplished researcher for 30 years only to drop them based on a statistical ranking seems counterproductive. It almost seems as though the acceptance of these grants are being processed through a computer rather than a panel of reviewers. Why would these researchers lose their grants after 30 years of funding? It was likely due to the lack of potential financial gain their study could provide. Combine this with a faltering economy and the money just might not be there. This has ethical implications for scientists trying to make breakthroughs in their fields. Certainly the NIH requires positive results when they continuously fund a researcher so the incentive to continue publishing is enormous. It is possible this may lead to unethical scientific practices. This problem reeks of the peer-review process and how the reviewer’s biases may affect those who get accepted. In the case of this article, these two researchers are left without financial support to continue their research, so what should they do? Retire??? Funding a study just because it has been funded before is not a reason to continue funding it. Seemingly, the only other option would be trying to obtain funding from a commercial source, which leads me to my primary objection within scientific practice. Commercial influence within the scientific community supplies billions of dollars to researchers but also commands a massive amount of influence in the laboratory. Personally, I’m not sure what should be done about this. Is it harsh to just assume that this is the way it goes for some scientists? The fellow who first discovered the green fluorescent protein couldn’t get funded or published and his idea was stolen years later. I guess one has to acknowledge these pitfalls before committing themselves completely.
Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.