Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Sad, or sick, sign of the academic times

Well, it's a slow week for science news.  Nothing other than the usual claims for revolutionary discoveries.  But then, when we went to our mailbox at work, the Major Moment arrived!  A flyer for the "NIH RO1 Grant Application" Mentor!

First came the fear tactic.  79% of NIH Grant Applications are unfunded! (note exclamation point)  So this will walk you through, step by step, how to do the whopping 12 page RO1 grant application form.

And in case your PhD or other higher degree didn't provide what you expected, this spiral-bound book includes "sample language from FUNDED applications..."  (capitals in the flyer). "color coded exact copies of NIH words when they are especially helpful."  And when the flyer says "100% Satisfaction Guaranteed or Full Refund" we wonder if that satisfaction means you got your grant or if, having failed as most applications do, you would not have 'satisfaction' and could demand your money back (providing this wonderful company is still in business, which hopefully they won't be).

Of course to be clear (but naturally not to mislead) the company has 'NIH' in its name, though the tiny, tiny print (too small for many aging PhDs even to read) provides the usual disclaimer that it's not actually affiliated, sorry to say.

And in case you're too slow to get the Big Picture, this "unique manual...coaches" you to "optimally" prepare your grant application "one section at a time!"  (rather, we assume, than, say, 4 sections at a time).

You might expect this massive tome (number of pages not specified, but it has 8 "sections" and looks to be less than an inch thick) to cost around $35, puffed up beyond the usual cost of something this grand as the publishers take advantage of your fearful hunger to get grants.  But you'd be wrong, because the special Early Bird offer is for $200!  And no, that's not the price....it's the discount!  Your special price is (believe it!) only $399!

No, but wait!!! (as the television infomercials say).  Now, for you only, there are two formats.  The price we just quoted was for the online pdf version!  A steal at that price.  If, however, you insist on a printed version, it's a mere $75 more--a not-so-grand total of $474 (but don't worry, that includes shipping and handling).

How venal, cynical, and sick can our society get?  There seem hardly to be any limits.  It is not just that this preying on fears to a disgraceful extent, the fears of no-grant no-job.  And that some poor suckers will shell out (a friend of ours once noted that the most intelligent people are the most gullible).  It is that anyone would have to be vulnerable to such fears in the first place--that our system would be so harsh and materialistic that our most educated (if science PhD training these days can be called 'education') people are reduced to such debasing grubbery.

This is but one more indication of how much is rotten in the state of universities these days.  As recent studies have clearly shown, students pay high tuition and get weak education, and faculty are pushed in many ways not to bother trying to educate them but to hustle grants to raise money (otherwise called 'indirect costs') for your administration; after all, how could you spend effort on teaching, while you are pouring over your NIH grant-cribbing manual?

1 comment:

Ken Weiss said...

Yes, and today in the mail came another of these flyers, addressed to one of us as "scientist". Clearly someone has been selling or appropriating mailing lists (fortunately, or we might otherwise not know of this Early-bird offer: only 15 days for this special price.