This is going to be a very juicy entry and the following reason/comment is all I experienced or heard during my finite academia career.
What do people wanted the most? Money and Power. When people have the money, they want the power. When they have the power, they can get the money.
It is similar in academic research…Why is it so?
There are thousands of projects or research proposals out there prepared by thousands of researchers. How to find out the one which is going to “work”?
You never know.
So, what is the safest way to do that? Find the one who has all the expertise, has the most resources and they just need a push to success! Wait…why don’t the people in business do that if it was in that stage……?
This is the dilemma on who to give the research funding. They want to support the one which is going to success but the projects which are going to be successful will go to business. Simply, the researchers are not dumb and they know they can be benefited from their idea or researcher, who would get the funding from government which is slow and troublesome.
Most of the research projects are in the infancy stage. They (>90%) are not going to success. There are too many ways to fail.
So, how to get the grant or the money to run the lab? Write something which make the others feel it is going to be successful.
Does it mean that it is going to be successful? No.
Does it affect the outcome of the research itself? No.
Does it affect the outcome of the research grant? Yes.
The dark side of research: Politics in academia
Politics is in short, the balance on the distribution of resources. Sometimes you get more and sometimes less. In research, we always need more.
There are way too many idea, way too few manpower and way too few equipment and reagents to carry them out. How to balance them?
In a perfect world, every researchers present their idea and tried to convince the others theirs are the best. A good presenter is not necessary a good manager or researcher. The peter principle kicks in……
Also, it is not practical to have everyone knows or understand the proposal based on the novel natural of research……
If someone got the support of a famous professor, like the name of the professor in the grant application. They are more likely to get funded.
In a perfect world, if a famous professor got the research grant, what would happen in the group? So, the money goes to the project which is going to success and BAM! A nature/science/cell/PNAS class paper is born!
However, it is far from the reality…..The reality was, the group members fight for new resources. If they cannot convince the Principle Investigator, they confuse him……If the was a completing proposal or researcher(s), all the dark side of humanity kicks in….bad mouth, defaming, accusing the other of fraud, stopped from sharing of resources…….or even ruin the others experiments
After all, these people are “good” people who wanted to do research but just different way to get resources. The worst kind of researchers are those who wanted to get the position (and money) instead of doing research. They do research because they can get more for themselves.
Quite some of them know the jargon but they don’t even know how to do research. Yet, they have a way to get more resources because of their title or whatnot. To those people, research is a waste of their time….so they “collaborate” with the “real researchers” and get publications out from them.
But what is the benefit of getting publications? To get a higher position, then, to get more power and control in the organization……and thus more money to keep the secretaries who knows what they like……being a leader of a group or whatsoever……
Well, do these people affect you? Maybe……or I mean, they MUST……
I was almost expelled by my supervisors. I got two (in fact, four in total) very good Professors to back me up just because they are kind people. At the end, I finished my Master and later, PhD. There are bright side of humanity, yes there are. But there are just way too few of them. The problem was, they help you to stay alive in academia, but they are not always there to help you. According to the Peter principle, they are good at what they are doing and then they will get promoted…..Somehow, only the bad one left and you have to due with them.
In the government….alright, that’s my job and I can take off on time.
In business….alright, that’s my job and I can get a good pay cheque at the end of the month.
In academia….alright, that’s my job and I can get the fame.
No! It is very difficult to switch to another university once you set up or settle in a lab and work on something specific. It is not possible to get any fame before you have the great science published…..The problem is….those bad people could steal your fame, steal your paper or even accuse you being scientific misconduct and probably ruined your career. Yet, you have to play it nice and pretend to be good with these people. A high level power struggle for the limited research grant from outside or inside……indefinitely!
What is worse? Some female researchers could get what they wanted just because they are female and the supervisor is a man. It is well-known in China and there is still this kind of “practice” in the place outside China.
Some people get whatever they want by whatever means.
I stick to certain principles, to name a few, I never fraud, bad data is bad data. I re-do the same experiments like 7 times to get a more consistence set of data. I convince with reason rather than telling they a fairy-tale like perspective. Nothing in research is certain and I always present the reason why I prefer this approach and what if it failed.
I convinced my two supervisors to support me and later they wanted me to drop out because the results were bad. I am disposable but I graduated. I don’t have to suffer from this kind of cancerous environment any more.
My thesis defence was easy in a way all of the professors are kind and good people. I prepared well and they did not ask any difficult question. After I defended my thesis, I don’t know what I should do. I don’t want to do a postdoc and my research career is over. The stuff I liked the most, to put a theory into practice is over. All I wanted was a sleep. However for this time, I slept in the office. I feel safe when the normal sounds of the vacuum pump and fumehood echoing in my ear. Is that noisy and disturbing? It is the best orchestra one could possibly listen to in a lab.