As far back as I can remember, teachers, parents and soap operas have told me that if I worked hard, studied like an adolescent boy with his first Playboy and Made Something Of Myself, I’d be the beaming recipient of success, happiness and job satisfaction. There was also the distinct possibility that, when I awoke in the mornings, the sun would smile at me whilst blue-birds helped with my tie and shoelaces. Ostensibly, reward – both in terms of job satisfaction and fiscal remuneration – was to be directly indexed to skills, knowledge and contribution to society.
If this is true, it logically follows that medical researchers must be receiving salaries so large, placing any two scientist’s personal wealth in one geographic location would result in a catastrophic shift in the earths axis; after all, we’re discussing people that tirelessly chip away at the face of disease so that we may enjoy longer and more comfortable lives.
Wait, what? AU$48,000 to $85,000 … gross?
Perhaps a personal anecdote will help put it in some kind of perspective. Before returning to study, I was working in project management on an oil and gas installation. On site, we had a cleaning contractor that supplied staff to clean the ablution block, offices and lunch rooms on a continuous coverage day-shift – four days on four days off, ten hour working day. In return for working half the year, the cleaners received four weeks paid holiday and AU$85,000. That was in 2007.
The only kinda-sorta good to come from such a disproportionate pay-grade is that people go into medical research almost exclusively because it’s their passion. They love, are fascinated by, and truly enjoy what they do.
Incidentally, one can’t help but wonder if applying the same pay-scale to politics or finance wouldn’t achieve great things. There would have to be something terribly, fundamentally wrong with the world if the finance sharks who managed to roger the global economy got paid post-rogering-bonuses so large they’d make Solomon blush – especially if medical researchers, by comparison, received a pat on the head and a gold sticker.
Okay, so we’ve established that personally they may not make fantastic money, but at least there should be plenty of funding available for the projects they work on, right? It’s not like researchers would have to engage in academic knife-fighting to score some sweet, sweet grant money, is it?