Sunday, February 6, 2011

Why should I write grant applications?

My administrators insist I should go for grants. They say it raises prestige and my research would benefit from it. I have not applied for a significant grant for quite some time for a reason: it is a horrible waste of time. I do not need grants. I do my research very well without the need for support money. All I need is a pencil, paper and a computer. I can even do without a printer. I do not need to pay for data, software and subscription, as all this is available for free (thanks to open source and open access). I do not need a research assistant as I do that much faster and better myself. And I do not need summer money as I am already well paid. In other words, I am doing just fine without grants, why should I put the time and effort into maybe getting a little money I do need, that comes with all sorts of strings attached?

My administrators do not care about the impact on my research, or my welfare for that matter. They want the overhead. They are begging for money to justify their existence. I already bring lots of money to the college by teaching many, many tuition paying and public funding attracting undergraduates. In fact, from a back of the envelope calculation, my pay should double just for that. I am already subsidizing the administrators, why would they need grant overhead? They need to feed a machinery that deals with those grants. The office of research, which manages the grants, is twenty people strong. And if I hire a research assistant among the graduate students, I have to pay his or her full tuition before anything can be assigned. I cannot hire outside the university. So why would I want to hire anyone?

In some way, the administration wants me to pay for my salary through grants, a salary I have already more than earned with teaching to overflowing classrooms. To be honest, if I were successful in obtaining grants, I would leave the university and keep everything for myself. I would then be able to concentrate on research instead of putting up with all the red tape. But most funding agencies do not accept submissions from independent researchers, so I continue doing my research without grants and try to ignore these administrators. Let them show their self-importance elsewhere.


Anonymous said...

I knew you were macro!

Also, why not outsource the grant-writing to an RA or junior faculty member?

Tom said...

Is it possible that having research grants would ease the amount of teaching you'd have to do?

I'm also interested if you think that this means that research grants for subjects such as economics should be discontinued (science and technology subjects are somewhat different).

As someone who works in a Research Office, I do think you're being a bit ungenerous to your colleagues. I find that generally Research Offices are understaffed and cater towards science, engineering and medical faculties. Arts, humanities and social sciences have far less in terms of grants and outside research income.

In the UK, the arts and humanities are suffering from severe cutbacks and are having to justify their remaining income - one of the ways they do this is by pointing to the impact their research has had.

mOOm said...

I agree that I wonder if the number of research office staff is efficient. The reasons for looking for grants in your kind of situation are:

1. You can help fund grad students in your department. You can assign them something that would be useful for their own dissertation work if you don't really have anything for them to do on the project.

2. The overhead funds everything at the university not just the research office. In Australia overhead flows back as "block grant" and it heavily depends on grants won as does the Rating of the department (on a 1 to 5 scale here in the just released ERA). This will affect future flow of grad students etc....

3. Getting promoted to full prof here depends on getting grants.

4. I'm looking for a grant at the moment that would actually pay my salary so I wouldn't have to teach. This will depend on your grant system.

5. I actually finding having to write a proposal useful in organizing my ideas for future research. As long as the worst bureaucratic aspects are dealt with by that research office.

Kansan said...

Hmm, micro people can also without grants.

In any case, my university has implicitly given up on graduate assistants for research. The fix cost to hiring them is so high (tuition plus benefits are now billed to the principal investigator), that no one is hiring them, and grants applications have dipped. The initial goal was for the university to get more overhead money, it horribly failed.