I perform cardiac arrest research and so I understand the heart fairly well. What I don't understand well, from a common sense stand point, is the granting process. There are many issues with the grant submission and funding award process that give me pause.
Study after study confirms that women backstab, undermine and put down one another -- at work, in the PTA, out for drinks -- basically taking every chance they can to act out the movie Mean Girls long past high school.
The reality is this: in the academic ecosystem, Ph.D. students are the plankton. They are the stuff on which the rest of the system relies for sustenance. Ph.D. students carry out the research that the senior permanent staff oversee but no longer have time to do.
In Francis Cornford's satire, Microcosmographia Academica (1908), the dons in Great Britain dismiss a proposal to change traditional practices at their college because "Nothing should ever be tried for the first time."
The outlook for science has never been brighter -- we know more today than ever before about the molecular basis for thousands of diseases that impact millions of patients -- but the outlook for funding has also never been bleaker.
Intrade goes to great lengths to transparently define the contracts in their markets for hosts of potential pitfalls: candidate deaths, calling outcomes, etc. The investors in this market are fully aware of what they are trading and the risks associate with that.
Perhaps the most important contribution of professors doing research is that it creates (or at least enforces) lifelong learners, learning that involves making mistakes while pursuing the joy of discovery.
While we can debate the inefficiencies involved in academic publication and try to make changes to it, the process encourages collaborative and original research and is what has made U.S. universities truly great.