Sorry, you're too fundable

May 13 2009 Published by under Uncategorized

As part of throwing my hat in every funding ring I can, I applied for an institutional grant in order to pay for a small project that I am already doing but would like someone else to pay for. I figured that being new faculty and having a proposal that would fit nicely with some of the federal proposals I have out would make for a fairly strong application. Indeed, the comments are got back were very positive on both the science and the training students would receive. In fact, the comments were in direct conflict with the cover letter letting me know that I was not receiving the funding. Puzzled, I looked over the comments again and one stuck out. "Has federal funding potential." On first pass I had seen this as a good thing. Shouldn't all ideas under consideration for institutional funding also be ideas that can be modeled into federal proposals based on the results from this small pot of institutional money? The more I thought about it, however, the more I realized that this was a knock on the proposal. If it can be federally funded, why spend tight institutional money on it?

What pisses me off about this odd little conundrum, is that the project is NOT CURRENTLY funded. Yes, I am waiting to hear back from NSF on a proposal that has similar, but not entirely overlapping, goals. Do I have the money in hand? No. If it doesn't get funded in this round would it be REALLY helpful to have a small pot of money to help produce more data for the next round? Yes. Next year I'll have to send in a project to the institutional competition which is less thought out or less likely to get funded. In the mean time I'll just keep burning that start-up funny money.

8 responses so far

  • BugDoc says:

    Yes, the other excellent criticism some of our junior faculty have received in response to submitting small internal proposals for pilot grants was that there was not sufficient preliminary data (despite the clear statement that no preliminary data was required). I expect this from NIH, but isn't the purpose of these internal pilot grants to provide seed money to generate preliminary data?

  • Professor in Training says:

    PLS: I had almost exactly the same comments on my recent reviews for a small institutional grant. To quote one of the reviewers: "there is no doubt that [PiT's] work will be seriously considered by both the [non-NIH agency] and NIH." Hmmm ... and I thought the point of these grants was to enhance the chances of getting external funding.

  • Prof-like Substance says:

    I'll be very curious to see who got funded. If it goes to a bunch of middle-career PIs with no history of federal funding (just a bit more data will get me over the hump!) I'm going to scream. Shit, this is probably one of those comments that could get me in trouble, a la all the new blog rules out there...

  • Anonymous says:

    PLS, the shit of funding dead weight to spur them along into doing research they have no chance in hell getting fed money for, much less getting decent publications really pisses me off too. My last dept would hand out left-over money to people who didn't do anything (as in an incentive to do something) rather than give the money to people who were already productive. The new dept chair and dean shifted to giving college-wide funds to people with productivity. Before handing money out, they asked for records of grant applications, funded grants, and publications. The end of the year came around, and you should have seen the morons with their grubby hands out whining that their pots of money went away to people who would get big grants anyway! boo hoo.

  • tideliar says:

    Our lot did the opposite. $300k to fund a handful of pilot projects...everyone is excited and applies, everyone gets turned down except four senior faculty who were already well funded. WTF?

  • Prof-like Substance says:

    Well, I'm not going to get into the "who deserves the money more" debate, because it's not up to me to decide. It's possible that all of the money went to promising pilot projects that all have potential. If that's the case, fine. I have plenty of start-up funds left and this won't slow me down. What I found disturbing was the fact that the having a good proposal that has federal potential was used against me in this instance. Not quite the message I expected.

  • Mad Hatter says:

    I wonder if the people who got funded received letters saying that their grants were selected because there was no hope of them being funded anywhere else?! 😛

  • Anonymous says:

    Sounds like a familiar story. Internal funding around here goes to the people who can't get funded otherwise. No pilot projects for people with potential. So it goes. The funny/sad thing is that these funds got cut this year. How many times you think you'll apply internally?

Leave a Reply