Plant Science Research Summit

Funding Directions

Is the current direction/funding in plant science research aligned with the most critical research priorities?

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6 thoughts on “Funding Directions

  1. No, at least not in the US. Plant biology in the US disdains agriculture, impact, and processes at supramolecular scales. There is continued massive investment in genomics despite the fact that genomics is no longer the bottleneck to progress. There is continued support for the ‘great man’ paradigm of science in which a small elite has considerable support while large numbers of researchers and even whole subfields are idled. Competition dominates over cooperation. In the EU things are better, and in China better yet, but looking at the US plant biology community one would not realize that we are confronting huge agricultural and environmental challenges. It looks like business as usual, with vested interests promoting the status quo.

  2. Is the current direction/funding in plant science research aligned with the most critical research priorities?


    Too much time and money is being wasted on endless grant writing and administrative burdens associated with competitions for small and short-term grants which do not provide the research capacities and time necessary to focus on the major research priorities. These burdens are paralyzing too much of the research and training system. The successful system of the German Max Planck Institutes would be a model to be adopted in other jurisdictions.

  3. Fortunately, I think that under its new leadership, NIFA is moving away from the huge multi-investigator grants that are a logistical nightmare where scientists barely get enough funds to conduct the research. I would like to see more funding of young scientists with good ideas rather than the mega proposals. A young investigator with ~$250,000 for 2 years would give USDA or NSF a lot of bang for their buck, make limited funding go farther and enhance, not discourage the careers of promising young scientists. I agree that we need more funding for plant breeders and those who use non-transgenic strategies to improve crop productivity. I also have issues with outreach components that are demanded by NSF. I believe that most plant biologists including myself are very committed to increasing diversity in science and improving science education. But as the NSF requirements become more stringent, one feels that he or she almost needs to hired a trained educator to conduct that part of the research.

  4. To some extent yes the current direction and funding in basic plant science research is generally on the right track; However more applied research (as Marc Cohn mentions in his comment on the research priorities question: plant anatomist, seed physiologist and I will add plant breeders, agronomists, tissue culture experts, etc.) have been gutted in the public sector and unfortunately now exist almost exclusively in the private sector (albeit in much diminished capacity and focused on a very few economically important species).
    The two biggest funding gaps remain in translation of basic research into applied research and more critically funding for long-term high-risk research that is not highly publishable (e.g. development of perennial grain crops, domestication of new species, plant breeding of orphan crops). These problems seem inevitable with a shift towards competitive grants with success defined by numerous high-impact publications.
    I also have two concerns that large funding has been disproportionally placed in developing “community resources”: 1) Community resources are really most useful to the few vocal labs at the table; and 2) Community resources are only useful if there are also still resources that allow investigation of important biological questions that make use of those resources.

  5. NO. Pure and simple, NO. We are churning out too many graduate students/post-docs versus the availability of positions to get research done. Grants are so tight that one goes the cheapest route to data, i.e. graduate students. Funding needs to support technicians in a long term way. I prefer the South African approach where programs are funded rather than individual grant proposals. Maybe the level of overall funding for a program is lower, but long term continuity of research is more secure.

    The US federal system is laborious, time-consuming, and the success rate is far too low. The requirement for ‘outreach’ in these proposals diverts time and effort from real research. Let the people who want to do this do it on their own.

  6. Funding for basic research should be directed to those researches which impact substantially crop plant productivity and improve people’s life. This is especially true given the funding constraints in the next 10 years. Therefore, funding priority should be determined based on the above goal. Such funding strategy would make investment most rewarding and cost-effective within the next 10 years.

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