You Work for the Federal Government. Get Used to Disappointment.

David Wright, the Director of the federal government’s Office of Research Integrity which monitors scientific misconduct in biochemical research, has announced his resignation because he can no longer put up with the stifling bureaucracy. ScienceInsider publishes his letter of resignation in full and there’s a paragraph that’s well worth reading:

The sociologist Max Weber observed in the early 20th century that while bureaucracy is in some instances an optimal organizational mode for a rationalized, industrial society, it has drawbacks. One is that public bureaucracies quit being about serving the public and focus instead on perpetuating themselves. This is exactly my experience with OASH. We spend exorbitant amounts of time in meetings and in generating repetitive and often meaningless data and reports to make our precinct of the bureaucracy look productive. None of this renders the slightest bit of assistance to ORI in handling allegations of misconduct or in promoting the responsible conduct of research. Instead, it sucks away time and resources that we might better use to meet our mission. Since I’ve been here I’ve been advised by my superiors that I had “to make my bosses look good.” I’ve been admonished: “Dave, you are a visionary leader but what we need here are team players.” Recently, I was advised that if I wanted to be happy in government service, I had to “lower my expectations.” The one thing no one in OASH leadership has said to me in two years is ‘how can we help ORI better serve the research community?’ Not once.

You would think that a lifetime spent working in academic institutions would have prepared him for mindbogglingly obtuse bureaucracy. Apparently not.

After this experience I predict that the number of scientost-investigators on ORI’s staff will be cut and its responsibilities expanded.

3 comments… add one

  • ...

    I’m thinking the Ukrainian crisis is just part of the NATO bureaucracy’s attempt to live forever.

  • TastyBits

    Bureaucracy is no different in public or private sectors. The references to the Ottoman Empire remind me of the eunuchs and of the power they held at various times.

  • Andy

    Yes, all this is very familiar to me. It’s why I think government reform is so important.

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