Michigan’s “MCubed” Solution

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The University of Michigan, apparently fed up with traditional methods of scholarship funding, has a new plan to encourage research at the institution.

According to a press release issued by the school’s department of engineering:

Beginning this fall, departments, schools and colleges will allot a $20,000 token to each participating faculty member. Once three researchers decide to “cube,” they register the project online on a first-come, first served basis. They immediately receive $60,000 to hire one graduate student, undergraduate student, or postdoctoral researcher, and work can begin.

Projects can grow, cube by cube. If 30 faculty members coalesce around one idea, for example, they could open a new large-scale research center with 10 funded positions overnight.

MCubed, a two-year pilot itself, aims to fund pilot studies that could eventually lead to larger traditional [outside] grants. It will give researchers new opportunities to follow their instincts, program designers say.

What’s with all the jargon, guys? You’re just trying to get them to work faster. While this might “let researchers move quickly into position to apply for much larger outside grants,” in the words of Inside Higher Ed, skipping the peer review process is perhaps not the best way to encourage high-quality, valid research.

Mark Burns, professor and chair of chemical engineering at Michigan, says that the reason for the new funding stream is that “In the traditional system, faculty are often forced to do research based on what will get funded, as opposed to what’s the best idea or what is most important for society.”

Perhaps I’m missing something here, but how does this new stream change that? If the ultimate goal is just to obtain larger outside grants, and the research allows them to bypass traditional research standards, won’t that just lead to more corporate-dominated scholarship? [Image via]

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer