Plant Science Research Summit

Barriers to Progress

What are the greatest barriers to progress in plant science research today (e.g., funding, technology, resources, infrastructure)?  What is being done to address these barriers?

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9 thoughts on “Barriers to Progress

  1. The two greatest barriers are funding and infrastructure – at least for academic researchers. Funding is a continual problem for academic scientists. A disproportionate amount of time is spent writing grants with a low return on that investment with most agencies funding ~10% of grants. With university budgets plummeting, the state of the infrastructure is deteriorating and is negatively impacting productivity

  2. There is inadequate support for practical applications of plant biology, to be sure, but I think the fundamental obstacle to progress is what has always been the fundamental obstacle to progress- our ignorance and prejudice, our uncritical commitment to the reigning paradigm. Which is now, as it has been for some time, genomics. Genomics alone cannot solve anything. We are going to have to come to grips with the complexity of plant biology at multiple scales of organization if we are to deal with the crises we confront. I simply do not see that comprehension in people at NSF etc – molecular biology has achieved a quasi religious status to the detriment of the other fields needed for it to bear fruit.

  3. Resourses infrastructure and funding : in my country and most Africa i guess with due attention to change in all aspects the research is done by modifying the traditional resourses to the best of the research purpose,Government gives due attention in funding and better infrastructure to its capacity which i feel is limited

  4. Support of agricultural infrastructure: farms, farm workers, buildings and equipment, as well as the availability of research funding. to individuals and interdisciplinary research groups.

  5. Funding, funding, funding. When success rates at NSF and AFRI are less than 10%, how can I encourage my graduate students to continue in this profession? The outlook is very bleak.

  6. Greatest barriers to progress in meeting grand challenges:
    Mindset1: “by better understanding the X gene and the Y network we will have more productive plants” Unfortunately, context dependency limits the scope of gene X and lack of applied funding and human resources prevents anyone from incorporating gene X into relevant cultivars and therefore prevents society from benefiting.

    Mindset2: “High impact publications and competitive grants are the only important metrics”. They are surely the easiest metrics to evaluate but the correlation between these metrics and meeting societal needs has yet to be fully demonstrated in my opinion – they also certainly take a lot of time. I unfortunately do not have another suggestion because having societal impacts in plants takes decades and we must have annual reviews to show progress. I just wonder how often research that would make a real difference to society is put on the backburner to write an article that is sexy and publishable.

    Funding: The comparison has been made that R&D on pharmaceuticals, sequencing and semiconductors is around 15-20% of revenue; in agriculture R&D is ~0.01%. Clearly no substantial progress can be made with such low investment.

    Image/ impact/ success stories: Lots of publications on really-really cool findings, but very little of it can be demonstrated to be applied and actually benefit society. Submergence Tolerance-1 in rice is a clear example of a success story…how many others can we identify? The assumption is that someone will pick up our basic research findings because they are in high impact journals; the reality is that researchers who might take it to the next step no longer exist, are no longer in applied research positions (lack grants and publications), or do not understand the basic science to allow them to apply it.

    Of course there are also great technological scientific barriers: Collecting and handling Big Data, large P small N (too many variables not enough datapoints), non-colinearity (PAV/CNV), etc. but I think the committee has plenty of these they can list.

  7. The low amount of funding, the poor odds to obtain funds, the time required to obtain funds, and bean-counting administrators who have forgotten (or never knew) what real research involves.

    Undergraduate students see how university faculty ‘live’ and the constant pressures of modern university research. Their reaction: no way I’m going to live like that (and salary is not the issue)!

    Our current situation reminds me of an assembly line that is constantly increasing in speed. Eventually, junk goes down the line because workers can’t keep up. We are there now….graduate student mentoring is ‘in the toilet’. Many of our students are leaving with a strong set of technical skills, very limited creative thinking ability, and inadequate communication skills.

    There is only so much time in a day. I don’t have enough time to think, to study (read the literature), and to do actual experiments (the best way to train students is by example). And I hear this from many of my colleagues.

  8. Lack of funding and insufficient sources of young people who are interested in certain basic plant sciences especially in plant molecular areas.

  9. Funding and politics.

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