In my spare time I like to tackle simple problems, like how to improve science. Here I present a straightforward proposition on how to at least multiply by a large fold productivity in labs, institutes, universities and academia in general. Productivity in this case is not only on number papers published, but also on resources consumption, time management, research achievements, etc. As you can see a small, trivial problem (I will use bullet point format, so it’s even clearer).
create an efficient informatics support for the institution – yes, that’s true. At McMaster we had in the lab a informatics guy, that not only was able to administrate our small cluster but to advise on a number of things we needed. Problem: they were understaffed. So, let’s create an IT department, not only to administrate things, but to educate people and have bioinformaticians, chemoinformaticians, whatever-science-field-ician. I don’t want these guys doing science or competing for grants, I want this as a service and a competent one.
As an addition to our recently suggested IT-do-it-all department, let’s have a group of artists working on creating figures for papers, either hand drawing for those guys in morphology, or creating the latest visualization of nanotubes to those guys in nanoscience. OF course this should be a specialized group, with people from different areas working on streamlining graphical production for faculty and staff.
A science related marketing department, with PR people that actually know that molecular biology, quantum physics, paleontology is. MB is more than using micropipettes (yes, news reporters have a fetish with micropipettes, so everytime I see one talking about “genetics engineering” on TV, I tend to check the pipette brand the guys are using). After all science is done with mostly public money, and I bet there a bunch of geek kids interested in learning more and more. NBA is not for everyone (below 6”).
There are not enough positions? Let’s create new ranks. There are people out there that don’t want to be a PI, but don’t want to be post-docs for 10 years. There are people out there that don’t care if they are first in a publication or third, as long as he or she knows the contribution they gave to the research. Creating the above departments/services, it will be simple to create these new positions.
I might have more steps, but my spare time is short today. Maybe there is no money, or political will to do these kind of things, but I didn’t promise anything.
Next time, I will pitch in the oil crisis and Middle-East peace process. Prepare yourselves.