‘Univer­sal ba­sic in­come’ for re­searchers pro­posed

Aca­demics should be given lump sum ev­ery five years, pa­per sug­gests. David Matthews re­ports

THE (Times Higher Education) - - CONTENTS - David.matthews@timeshigh­ere­d­u­ca­tion.com

Ev­ery tenured aca­demic should re­ceive a “ba­sic in­come” to fund their re­search projects, rather than wast­ing their time sub­mit­ting largely un­suc­cess­ful bids for grants, two re­searchers say.

All re­searchers would be en­ti­tled to a stipend ev­ery five years of about $600,000 (£460,000) in the US and just over $500,000 in the Nether­lands if re­search grants’ to­tal value was shared out equally, the pair cal­cu­late, enough to hire a sim­i­lar num­ber of PhD and post­doc­toral stu­dents to now and to main­tain a healthy travel and equip­ment bud­get.

Co-au­thor Krist Vae­sen, as­sis­tant pro­fes­sor in philosophy at Eind­hoven Univer­sity of Tech­nol­ogy, said that he saw “many peo­ple be­ing frus­trated” and con­sid­er­ing leav­ing academia be­cause of the nor­mally fruit­less grant ap­pli­ca­tion process.

Un­der the ba­sic in­come plan, “each re­searcher gets a share of the re­search bud­get” that is cur­rently al­lo­cated com­pet­i­tively, he ex­plained (uni­ver­si­ties would con­tinue to pay re­searchers’ ba­sic salar­ies).

A pa­per set­ting out the pro­posal, “How much would each re­searcher re­ceive if com­pet­i­tive gov­ern­ment re­search fund­ing were dis­trib­uted equally among re­searchers?”, pub­lished in Plos One, ar­gues that such a scheme would not spread re­sources too thinly in theUSor the Nether­lands.

The pa­per ac­knowl­edges that a ba­sic in­come would fall far short of the funds on of­fer from some bod­ies – the Euro­pean Re­search Coun­cil of­fers up to E2.5 mil­lion (£2.2 mil­lion) over five years, for ex­am­ple.

Dr Vae­sen ad­mit­ted that, with a ba­sic in­come, re­searchers could no longer af­ford to lead projects with 10 or more PhD stu­dents. “I don’t think that’s so bad be­cause I don’t think one per­son can su­per­vise so many,” he said. In­stead, sev­eral re­searchers would have to pool their money to in­sti­gate ma­jor projects, he said.

How­ever, in the UK, a “ba­sic in­come” would be lower – $364,000 ev­ery five years – leav­ing re­searchers with only “mod­er­ate” funds once they had hired post­docs and PhD stu­dents, mean­ing that the “worry con­cern­ing di­lu­tion of re­sources seems…jus­ti­fied”, the pa­per says.

The amount of money that aca­demics get could be mod­u­lated by the cost of re­search in the dis­ci­pline, Dr Vae­sen said, or the so­ci­etal value at­tached to their work – cancer re­searchers could get a higher ba­sic in­come, for ex­am­ple – al­low­ing pol­i­cy­mak­ers to steer re­search pri­or­i­ties.

The sta­tus quo makes sense only if re­searchers who win money un­der the cur­rent sys­tem per­form “ex­traor­di­nar­ily” above av­er­age, Dr Vae­sen ar­gued, to make up for time wasted by aca­demics whose ap­pli­ca­tions are un­suc­cess­ful, he said.

A ba­sic in­come would also elim­i­nate gen­der and eth­nic­ity bias in the grants sys­tem, he said. “But in the larger pic­ture, it’s not about fair­ness, it’s about sci­en­tific progress,” he added.

Reg­u­lar flow US re­searchers would be en­ti­tled to $600,000 ev­ery five years

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.