On my view about CONACyT’s funding scheme

In science one thing is true and universal: We need funding. Here in Mexico the main source of funding comes from the National Council for Science and Technology (Consejo Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnología, CONACyT) which is an institution that depends directly from the federal government. Over the years different policies have prevailed and right now we are not looking into a good future. I wont go into all the alleged corruption or about the prevailing notion of favoritism within the institution’s scheme for funding research. I just want to write about the process of projects evaluation and what I think are its great shortcomings.

So first, as in any other part of the world, it all begins with a proposal being submitted for evaluation. In this particular case there is a specific application for “Young Researchers”, that is people who are newcomers to any scientific institution in the country, who are in need for a large amount of resources in order to get their own labs going. The notion of an “associate researcher” is not well understood, I think. After the submission is complete and the paperwork validated, the proposal is sent to a few other researchers in the field who either accept or decline to review the project and then are asked concise questions about the originality and relevance of the project; its feasibility; the proponent’s profile about how well suited he or she is to deliver what is being promised, and finally they are asked to evaluate how well justified is the requested budget. The reviewers then turn their comments, and rankings, to CONACyT in which a committee gathers all the data and ranks all the projects. Those projects with the higher ranking get their funding with, maybe, minor adjustments in order to stretch the reach of funding to as many projects as possible. Some other criteria are used, for example researchers at institutions with small budgets have increased chances of being funded than those on a large institution. It is a matter of balance: giving the money to those who need it but that at the same time will sure do more (and better) with it.

So far it all sounds pretty good and fair to me! except there is a problem: Reviewers don’t always do their job properly and sometimes you get to read comments such as

the proponent has no experience in graduating students

well, thats why I clicked the “Young Researcher” button. Some other pearls of wisdom include

the proponent didn’t take into consideration the latest publications in the field he is trying to study

and then he/she enlists references with publication dates posterior to the date of the proposal’s submission! Sometimes our proposals may not be thoroughly well read (or, lets admit, written) and reviewers give you a bad review for omitting things that you indeed covered. But once you get a bad review (from an anonymous peer) there is no turning around, you only find out what they wrote once you have been declined the grant.

My little suggestion: Let the review process be questioned, just once per reviewer and without the possibility of modifying the proposal. That is, once a reviewer emits his or her comments then I could get to read them and address their concerns in a single letter. If I can prove them something so evident as a conflicting set of dates between missing references and the proposal submission’s, then they would have to change their ranking, but without giving me the chance to modify the project anymore as to fit their comments. The process would take longer, maybe, but it already takes more than half a year! a few more months could be worthy if a more fair ranking is obtained.

Science needs funding; not all the scientific proposals deserve funding, true.

Advertisements

About joaquinbarroso

Theoretical chemist in his late thirties, in love with life and deeply in love with his woman and children. I love science, baseball, literature, movies (perhaps even in that order). I'm passionate about food and lately wines have become a major hobby. In a nutshell I'm filled with regrets but also with hope, and that is called "living".

Posted on February 17, 2012, in Random thoughts, Science and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. No tiene nada que ver con la entrada, pero te agradesco algunos textos que has subido sobre Gaussian y calculo de NBO, me han ayudado mucho en ciertas dudas que he tenido

  2. No matter if some one searches for his necessary
    thing, therefore he/she wants to be available that in detail, therefore that thing is maintained over here.

  3. In some cases developers can find (or borrow) that particular
    device for testing, or in other cases it may be most practical to create and foster
    a community that can help each other address these kinds of problems.
    You by no means know, this will likely not impact you at all for dozens of transactions after which the following time,
    you’ll get that tremendous pores and skin cream
    on Friday instead of having to attend till Monday. With the
    current release of new Androids handsets from major brands like Motorola,
    HTC, and Google, the Android developer local
    community has been provided a increase to crank out good good quality Android software package.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: