When science gives you lemons, pH the lemon juice and see if it correlates with the size of the lemons, then make lemonade. I just found out I went 0/3 in the winter grant/fellowship season. For that, I’d like to share a story.
In my first two seasons of little league, I was tiny. “Get on base. Get a walk.” They could barely pitch to my ever narrowing strike zone (I crouched a little for good measure). It was my niche. My job was to get on base. Leave the home runs to the bigger kids. What I did was valuable, but I still needed to be brought home. I actually had a good on base percentage despite not getting one hit in my first two years of playing. That’s right, not one single hit. I stole bases after walking and in some cases, I got to score, but for that, I needed help. Was a valuable member of the team? Sure (I really did walk a lot). Truth be told, I was afraid to swing, because “what if I miss?” If I get out, I might not play later, play it safe. Eventually I got comfortable where I was, “getting a walk is just fine.”
I’ll never forget, we were in the semifinals for our league, down 2 with one on base and one out. It was either the last or second to last inning. “Get on base, just get on base” over and over going through my mind. I didn’t swing, not even once. Got the count up to 3-2, and then just like that, it was over. I struck out on a pitch that was CLEARLY outside, but the result was set. My at-bat was over. Walking away, the ump said “you gotta swing man.” I was crippled by my own fear to swing and it was what got me out. I didn’t have the confidence or resources to swing.
I still loved baseball. I wanted to improve, luckily my mom was a great. She got me hitting lessons. The next year in the league, I had an actual average that wasn’t .000, it was somewhere around .400. I had the tools, I had the knowledge on how to swing. I still hit mostly singles and doubles. Stretching a few to triples and in one magical game I got 2 home runs. I remember that game, I went 4 for 4 with a single and double to round out my box score with 4 RBIs. We lost that game 8-4 btw. Again, I was crushed, what more could I have done. Well, it was a team game. We had to succeed together. It couldn’t be just one person that won the game.
Now, what does that have to do with science?
There are research labs all across the country. A lot of them have limited funding, or barely any funding at all. Yet what they do is still valuable, they get on base, some by walking, and some by getting a few hits, and both scenarios could lead to scoring some runs. When you have better tools and resources to draw from, you can get on base and start to drive in some runs yourself. You can make better contributions to your scientific community. You are not crippled by the lack of funds or resources. Of course, it is hard to do things all by yourself but that doesn’t stop you from swinging because even if you miss, one bad lead will not crush your lab.
But imagine if you had a team of phenomenal hitters. A team that could swing for the fences, better yet, a team that had the freedom to swing for the fences, and more than not, knock the ball out of the park. For that we need the proper team and proper resources. One manifestation of that resource is money. Am I asking you to dig into your pockets right now to throw some change our way? No. There is a process on how money gets to us. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is one of the biggest monetary contributors to research. So when you hear someone say, why does the NIH need that much money, reply with how we keep score.
The score is we actually generate revenue for the country.
The score we keep is in understanding.
The score we keep is in cures.
The score we keep is in lives saved.
Let us not settle for walks. Let us not be afraid of swinging the bat to see what we can accomplish together. I cannot stress enough how much everyone needs to feel as if they are on the same team. Because for better or worse we are ALL on the same team. So not out of fear, but out of pride, be a part of our team. Support science. Don’t give up on us and do one better, go get a bat and come into the batters box with us.