Rube Goldberg was a  Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist known for introducing the most complex systems of parts to solve simple problems. Like Zacks Red Bull, Easter egg, Connect Four, locomotive fueled way to push a button.Every time I hear of another initiative to increase underrepresented minorities, to curb the abuses of power that occur to women or the LGBT community in STEM, I think of Rube.

A new R25 RFA for the RISE program seeks new ways to help promote skill development during training to make diverse populations of scientists ‘research ready’. It’s a great idea. Everyone could use some protected time to build skills. But here’s a better idea. Give grants to minorities preferentially. Or, for the NSF and NIH call to ‘end sexual harassment in hostility towards women in STEM,’ take the money away from schools where harassers are tolerated and even, in some cases, passed off to other institutions knowing there are flagrant abuses of power that come with these PIs.

If you are a funding agency like NSF and NIH, and you value diversity, pay less overhead to schools that fail to meet standards for diversity. It’s all part of the environment equation. Surely if NIH is deeply committed to ending sexism that occurs in hiring, evaluating and promoting women, they can change the overhead rate or pull grants from schools that don’t have aggressive plans to foster development and retain women as mentors and colleagues. You better believe there would be a whole lot less tolerance of sexy-time at department parties and retreats if people saw their money was on the line.

Alas, the Rube Goldberg experiments have already started at NIH and NSF where program officers are now calling on victims to come forward to ‘out’ their universities after someone has been found guilty of harassment. The idea is that Title IX and the DOE are slow moving and predators won’t turn themselves in, so surely the victims should. Because there is really nothing a woman who has been through a Title IX investigation wants more than to unwrap the tunicate of her career hemorrhaging so she can focus on….what? Being the person who paints themselves into a corner and is seen as  turning in their university. Good luck getting your back up job at Starbucks after they hear about that.

Don’t Rube Goldberg this up, funding folks. No more pressure on minorities and women to work harder. Money and laws. They are the only thing that make things change.

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