13 January 2014

Flat funding

This morning, I got a survey from the Chronicle of Higher Education about flat research funding.

The Chronicle of Higher Education is working on an article about how cuts in federal support for scientific research are affecting university labs. We are asking principal investigators like you to tell us if budget pressures have influenced the kinds of research you do, how your lab is staffed, and how you advise young scientists.

Actually, there are no questions about that last one in the survey I got. This is interesting, because I think it’s critical. There is this big drumbeat from people not in science (politicians, administrators) to get people into STEM degrees, but we don’t necessarily know what scientists tell students.

Here’s what I wrote in the freeform section in reply to the question, “Please describe any specific problems or challenges that have stemmed from flat or declining financing for research.”

I’ve been criticized for saying that I have not had serious problems from flat or declining funding.

Flat and declining funding has not affected me because I have never had much funding. I have been largely overlooked by funding agencies. I realized years ago that if I was to have a productive scholarly career, I was going to have to find ways to produce papers without grants.

Consequently, the research I do is cheap, and my lab can run on minimal funding. I’ve also successfully experimented with crowdfunding.

Some other researchers have been critical when I say things like this, because they see it as undermining the cause for federal research funding. This is like worrying about the blood loss from a mosquito bite in a patient with gunshot wound through major arteries.

The survey is anonymous, but I’m not one to lose a few paragraphs of potential blog material. ;)

Photo by James Jordan on Flickr; used under a Creative Commons license.

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