Measure for Measure
What makes scientists productive? To find out, economists with MIT links are researching the researchers.
By Peter Dizikes. Technology Review, July/August 2010
A young genius in a low-budget lab toils to uncover the workings of cancer cells. Physicists from several universities collaborate to coax never-before-seen particles from a supercollider. Teams of astronomers ply huge telescopes to scan the far reaches of the universe, capturing stunning images of black holes and nascent stars. Eureka moments can occur in almost any kind of setting. Behind all those modes of inquiry, however, is often a common thread: U.S. government funding.
But what is the best way for federal funding agencies like the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to invest in science? Do comparatively small grants for individual researchers spark the most groundbreaking ideas, or does it take long-term awards for large teams? For that matter, should the goal be to shoot for occasional big breakthroughs or consistent, incremental advances in knowledge? Or is the whole process of scientific discovery and technological innovation too complex for any general rules to apply?
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My work has appeared in The New York Times, The Boston Globe, The Washington Post, Slate, Salon, Technology Review, and numerous other publications. You can learn more about me here.
SELECTED ARTICLES BY PETER DIZIKES
E. Coli and You
The New York Times, June 29, 2008
The Meaning of the Butterfly
The Boston Globe, June 8, 2008
Joseph Needham's Grand Question
Seed, May/June 2008
The New York Times, April 13, 2008
Nature Nurtures Learning
The Boston Globe, December 31, 2007
Genes Open New Frontier in Privacy Debate
The Boston Globe, September 24, 2007
Cambridge Scientists Put on a Show
Nature Network Boston, May 1, 2007
Edward O. Wilson Sees Accord on Climate Action
The Boston Globe, January 29, 2007
The New York Times, July 30, 2006
Slate, February 3, 2006
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