Grants

An annoying part of my job is trying to convince people to give me money to do the things I’m doing anyway. We’re graded in effect by how much we spend, if we do cheap science with the only spend being on consumable items we are graded poorly. Most of the science I do is pretty cheap, the capital costs have already been paid, so it’s cheap to carry on with the equipment.

To really hit the high points in science you need to be spending vast sums. You can’t spend what you don’t have, so you need to apply for grants.

The pot of money available to be awarded is small (compared to government spending on just about anything else) and way over subscribed. Any particular application for money has somewhere between 1/10 and zero chance of getting funded. Money tends to go to money, so if you’re starting with zero your chance of getting any more tends towards zero too.

We just got turned down for a big grant. It would have funded some very cool science and half a dozen new researchers at the start of their careers for three years. The effort that went into the application was on the order of a human-month. Personally I spent about 3 days on it, others spent far longer. Time that could have been spent doing research.

It’s basically a scam. One we have to keep playing and trying on the off-chance it pays out in our favour and we can start the next project and think about writing the next application.

A failed application is worth about 0.1 of a brownie point to the powers that be, so I won’t be out on my ear yet. I just need to apply for lots more grants, at several days each and keep the the research and keep up the teaching and everything else. It’s a good thing time is elastic and we can easily add as many hours to the day and days to the week as we like, isn’t it?

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