Pathways to ‘Plod’ in @timeshighered

I picked this story out as I think this can apply as much to the arts as to science…

The impact agenda rewards unoriginal thinkers and threatens to snuff out the bright ‘Sparks’ who could change the world, warns Bill Amos

It seems to me that there are two types of scientist in the world: those who think mainly about doing science and those who think mainly about how to get funding to do science.

The former (let’s call them the “Dr Sparks”) live and breathe science. They think about little else, whether at work, at home or on holiday. They would probably still do what they do even if they weren’t paid. Their passion, bred out of deep insight, provides fertile ground for innovation and breakthroughs of exactly the sort the government wants and believes science funding should deliver.

However, there is a downside to being a Dr Spark. Such scientists are often viewed as brilliant or crazy in equal measure. Few of their peers properly understand their latest work or its implications because the Dr Sparks plough new and difficult furrows. They usually struggle to get funding, partly because they are often so wrapped up in their research that they don’t put enough time into their funding proposals, and partly because they often assume that the importance of their work is self-evident. Consequently, for every glowing report that says their research will change the world, there will be one or two others that completely miss the point and brand it “unfundable”. These days, only uniformly acclaimed proposals tend to get funding.

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