And I said:
I’ve had to build research program without regular funding. #sciquester makes little difference to me.
Yes, it’s glib and impolitic. The scientific community wants everyone to present a united front on research funding. Yes, sequestration cannot be good for the scientific enterprise in the United States.
The question was about how the sequester would affect me personally, but some reactions from people who wanted to talk more about the prospects for sequestration and research generally. Indeed, a lot of the reactions being compiled at the Science Now website here are comments about general policy decision, and not reactions from individual researchers about how they personally will be affected.
But... damn it, I’m so tired. I am so tired of being marginalized in these conversations. I am so tired of the theme of “imminent crisis.” I am so tired of the lack of awareness that a lot of scientists got left behind by the funding agencies long ago.
I look around my department, where nobody regularly gets the stand alone research grants that are the bread and butter at a lot of places. It’s certainly not for lack of trying, but there’s history and infrastructure issues that are hard to beat. We have been mostly running on training grants (because we have a lot of Hispanic students). We’re doing research, and I’m proud that we’ve kept the wheels turning without the sort of federal research grants that has so many of my peers in a panic over losing.
Personally, if you’d asked me when I started this job if I thought that I’d be able to get grants for my research, I’d have said, “I think it’ll take me a few tries, but I think I can do it.” Well, that hasn’t happened. So I’ve had to re-invent myself, my expectations, everything, from almost the ground up. It’s been a decade-long battle to redefine myself as a scientist. I’m still not done.
But, to paraphrase Gunny Highway (Clint Eastwood) in Heartbreak Ridge:
Reinventing yourself professionally is long, and hard, and it sucks. So if you’re worried about the effects of sequestration on your lab... you might want to start that project now.
Additional: It was pointed out to me on Twitter that some of the undergraduate training grants I mention are supported by federal funds. Yes, and they could well be affected by sequestration. The point I was fumbling to make was that in our department, we developed ways to support research that didn’t revolve around individual research grants. Those individual research grants are, as far as I have seen, seen as much more desirable than undergraduate training grants at a lot of universities.
For example, when I had one undergraduate training grant, I went to a meeting of PIs holding those grants in biology. Several people from major research universities griped that their faculty didn’t want to participate in those program unless there was summer salary for the faculty. Contrast that to my experience, which is that we want those training grants badly, because they truly allow us and our students to get stuff done.
Just another example of different perspectives. Which one gets heard more often in these sorts of discussions?
(By the way, the line in the picture was a reference...)