Research Management

Efficiency is an important part of TCIN’s philosophy. The Cure is Now is interested in increasing the efficiency and effectiveness of research. As such, it is attempting to be as efficient as possible by eliminating dysfunction, politics and unproductive work.

Inefficiency tends to plague research. Many people do not perform to their potential, slowing progress through insufficient productivity, failure to cooperate with colleagues and even sabotage of other’s research or producing useless results. In order to spur development of new cures, and to do so where other organizations have failed, a system of communication, monitoring and incentives must be implemented to maximize productivity and efficiency.

The most obvious source of inefficiency is the case of an employee not doing the work for which they have been hired. The solution is equally obvious: replace the employee with someone else. When people are rewarded for working with compensation and continued employment, and face the consequences of demotion or termination for failure to work, they tend to work hard; if they don’t, someone else will.

Often times, workplaces are dysfunctional due to “politics” or other situations in which employees, instead of cooperating towards a common goal, pursue their own interests, to the detriment of other employees and the organization as a whole. The solution here is to have an aware and well-informed management presence to monitor the dynamics of the workplace, identify inefficiencies caused by dysfunctional interactions between employees, and to incentivize the culpable parties to alter their behavior (or replace them with more cooperative employees if necessary).

Some inefficiencies may not be due to the actions of any individuals, but may be due to a structural deficiency in the system in which they work. For example, two departments may be doing redundant work on the same project, two departments which need to work together may encounter institutional obstacles to doing so, or two departments which could collaborate may not do so because they are not even aware that they have a potential synergy. Again, management needs to be aware of these situations when they arise (or design the system to prevent them from arising) and modify the system to address them.

But by what standard is efficiency to be measured? Although it would be great to measure it by number of diseases cured per year (for example), it would not be practical due to lengthy timescales involved and the fact that, due to the unpredictable nature of research, a treatment may turn out to be ineffective through no fault of those who developed it. In industry, efficiency is measured by profits, which are not necessarily correlated with how many lives a product has saved or how much it has improved the standard of living; in academia, efficiency is measured by publications, which leads researches to focus on quantity instead of quality; and governments give grants to research, but very few legislators come from scientific backgrounds, and their well-intentioned but uniformed decisions, combined with the actions of some who only wish to score points with their constituents, mean that funds are not always allocated in the most efficient manner.

The Cure is Now proposes to solve this problem by having a leadership composed of scientists. Together, these experts can agree upon reasonable and desirable goals whose accomplishments would lead to substantial advancement of progress towards understanding and curing diseases. Instead of being given vague and informal assignments, employees would be given clear, specific contracts. If each employee fulfilled their contract, then their work would lead to the accomplishment of the goals set by the scientific leadership.

By having scientists set goals and then implementing a system in which researchers work efficiently to achieve those goals, The Cure is Now aims to drive new advances in the work of curing disease.

— Brandon Milholland