We have a confession to make, gentle reader. We're guilty of hubris. We used to think we were no lightweights at this business of re$earch trickery. Why, on a bright day we might even have ventured to put on our Sherlock Holmes hat, and just like Master Detective does with mud-stains in a 50 mile radius of London, we might have dared to claim we can instantly identify which murky alleys of fraud a published result has passed through. But the Grand Reviewer up there probably didn't like our active voice, and sent this whopper that has made our assessment even dimensionally incorrect. The impact of the realization is so large that we are even contemplating sanyasa from the exciting, high-stress life of research and settling down in the serene, peaceful life of a pit trader or an investment banking MnA analyst instead. But perhaps we should begin at the beginning.
A labmate casually remarked today that a very well known professor in a well known university has all his grad students in the US, and all his postdocs in Singapore.
Also, the lab was getting its experiments on mouse cells done in China.
BY GOD, and the entire editorial panel of Nature crossbred with the Economist's! It struck me like the loud report of the starter pistol did to Yeddy when his political race went Ready-Steady-Reddy: Outsourcing research! That must be the most ABSOLUTELY FANTASTIC IDEA EVER! How could we be so blind to it for so long? For shame, for shame! Just take a look at the advantages, which I outsourced straight from an article on the benefits of outsourcing:
Advantage #1: Outsourcing can save you money.
Hell yeah! Customer satisfaction is always our #1 priority. The huge number of research studies which end up with unremarkable conclusions is a tremendous waste of grant money. If for 1/10th the price the people over at Wipe-pro can provide value-added solutions to the Poincare conjecture, with relentless effort towards quality and project delivery excellence (PDE), leveraging their time-tested experience (TTE) of project management, industry best practices (IBP) and internally developed project management software (PMS), who are we to meddle with the free market? High quality results and 100% customer satisfaction guaranteed. All platforms, including NSF, NIH, DoE, ARC are fully supported. 150% moneyback policy if Tier-2 journal rejects work, Conditions Apply. Why needlessly spend money on costly grad students, supercomputers and lab facilities? All a grad student would do with his stipend would be live, eat and watch porn on the lab's projector or Apple HD Cinema Display anyway.
Advantage #2: Outsourcing can help you share risk.
No shit Sherlock! Who wants to run a 3 month experiment only to find the correlation is only 0.4? Plus, universities have developed stiff-nosed Victorian standards of conducting research and it's impossible to be creative under such terrible constraints. Procedure, they harp, Procedure and Hypotheses and Validation and Double Checking and Consistency and Backtesting and yadayadayada. You don't want all that, you want a good life. Take a hint from the investment banker down the road with the Ferrari, and share your risk. Maybe if you imitate him well, you can hope for a Camry. You don't need to do Science the way old European fogeys did it. Peering at the skies for 30 years without a telescope to record observations accurate to 1/60th of a degree, and dying of a bladder burst, pooh! It's 2009 now. Risk is taboo. The seller will be eager to please, and you have the pleasure of perusing results with none of the pangs of Procedure.
Advantage #3: Outsourcing can help accommodate peak loads.
Of course! It was micro and stem cells a few years ago, it's bio, nano, energy and cleantech today, and it will be pervasive soc-nets and Cloud computation tomorrow. You never know when a funding source will chance by one day, so it's always best to be prepared with research power on the bench. GPU computations for resonant MEMS cantilevers? Our Korean team will handle it. Solid Oxide Fuel Cells for Clean energy for 2-stroke engines? Our brand-new benched team, which can't tell apart electron emissions from nocturnal emissions, is right on it, and wants to know what in colour you want the prototype painted. Long-term environmental impact of sulphur effluents on river systems? No problem, our India team has specialized on-ground expertise, and can deliver historical data, analysis and predictions all in a low-cost, 5 papers guaranteed package. Hurry, order before Thanksgiving and get a conference-friendly Java GUI FREE!
Advantage #4: Outsourcing can help develop your internal staff.
Very deep. First, you won't have wasteful grad students asking poking questions loitering around. Neither will you have pesky postdocs. Only you, tenure and a growing stack of publications. Bliss. You can finally take that long-deserved vacation without the headache of that algorithm not converging, or that shady simulation not coinciding with experimental results. It's Someone Else's problem now.
So what are you waiting for? Just pick up the phone and call 1-800-MOAR-PAP3RZ now!
(Update, Jan 6) Hark, unbelievers! "Chinese academia ghost-writing 'widespread'"
If our humble efforts have succeeded in piquing the interest of the gentle, generous reader, might we beg that he humour a fleeting thought toward a modest venture embarked upon by the One Post Phenomenon and your humble author, Soopper Turbo Suttifiers GmBH? We offer superior quality German acronyms beside our name, and ensure such high standards of service that you shall always leave our premises with a light heart and a lighter purse.
Gratifyingly, the website which I outsourced the bullet points from, Sourcing Magazine, 'the world's leading online content provider for the Outsourcing community', has its homepage stuck in an endless redirection.