Field of Science


Do you study a cute enough organism to get patron funding?

How cute is that?  Here's a well known entomologist trying to drum up research support on line.  The problem is that charismatic organisms tend to get support from "enthusiasts" or their organizations, but for the most part the USA fails to support small science, so this is what it has come to.  People who do big science are tied to a boom or bust grant cycle either because the cost of their research demands it or their university demands it.  A hefty percentage of every grant goes to "indirect costs", the institution's take for providing you with a place to work.  But that's not what the Phactor wishes to complain about.  A lot of us do research that does not require big money, and in all honesty cannot compete for grants with the big money, and yet we still do worthwhile and useful research, often involving undergraduate students, and for us $50,000, or $20,000, or even $10,000 a year would pay the bills and keep the student fed.  Yes, research has shown that students actually need to eat.  And in terms of "bang for the buck", 10 small science operations at $50,000/yr may well generate more science than one big science operation for $500,000/yr.  No question about it, science needs both, so far from dumping on my big money colleagues or my entomological colleague, although one cannot condone pandering, the Phactor has been known to make an annual plea (2010, 2011) for a patron of botany.  But so far none of my readers have decided to become the Phactor's patron.  Here's even a cute cuddly picture of one of my research organisms.  Aw, the pretty little prairie lousewort (Pedicularis canadensis), an obligate parasite that taps into its neighbors' roots stealing water and nutrients from their xylem because, and here, perhaps, honesty hurts chances of getting a patron, it literally sucks.  But it's still a green plant and it has a considerable impact on the prairie community, and trying to find out why and how it does these things takes some young backs (see above: research on feeding students).  Lastly need we ask if the Phactor is charismatic enough, appealing enough, interesting enough to have a patron?  The silence speaks for itself.


Belette said...

> Here's a well known entomologist trying to drum up research support on line

That looks like it ought to link to something, but it doesn't...

The Phytophactor said...

Ah, yes, a link to the fund a botanist appeal page. However, the Phactor per se needs no donors, but his real life alter ego does and herein the problem of pseudonyms is encountered. ;-)