Speaking as someone who started as a scientist, research isn't particularly efficient. Fairly often you have to patch things together just to get results.
I do think though that you may be able to make a case for standards and documentation because if you use public funding, you owe it to the taxpayers. If part of the grant requires that code be placed in the public domain at the completion of the project, there might be more incentive to improve.
Think you're bumping up against the glass ceiling?