London, UK. A recent survey of ten thousand UK scientists carried out by Imperial College Kings of London (ICKL) has found that no-one is quite sure why they bother.
“It’s just a huge pointless circle”, said Prof. Joan Jett, a senior group leader at ICKL and former glam rock star. “The first and only objective of any grant is to start writing the next grant. We publish a paper announcing the project, then we put out a press release, then we start writing the next grant application. We never do any actual science” she continued
“I thought the PI knew why we did it” continued Eddie Genetics, one of Jett’s PHD students. “but when I asked her, she just stared at me for ten minutes then left the room. It was very uncomfortable”.
Jett picked up the thread again: “We thought the director of our institute might know, so we asked her ‘Why do we do this?’. She said the point was to win money. ‘But why?’ we asked. ‘So we can publish papers’ she replied. ‘About what?’ we insisted. Sadly, she didn’t understand the question”
“We thought industry might help us” added Fay Ledscience, industry liaison officer at ICKL. “We were sat in a meeting with one company and they said ‘Out of this £1m research grant, we contributed 50p, therefore we own all of the IP and your ideas. Give them to us. What are your ideas?’. Our scientists just looked blank. Finally, I had to explain to industry ‘No, that’s why you’re here – to give us ideas’. They looked furious. Finally, their accountant stood up, slammed his fist on the table and shouted ‘I told you this would happen!’ and stormed out” Fay continued, looking very worried.
Finally, a large group of senior researchers from ICKL approached Prof. Oldfart Lockheed, FRS, chief executive of the science funding council (SFC). “We asked him what the point was” said Jett, spokesperson for the group. “He said ‘You need to publish papers'; we said ‘Why?'; ‘So you can win grants'; we again asked ‘why?'; ‘So I can demonstrate impact'; ‘yes, but why?'; ‘So I can get more money from the government’ he replied”.
At this point Jett simply put her head in her hands and began sobbing quietly.