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.