In yesterday's post, CPP made the following comment with regard to using federal grant money:
I have *always* outspent my revenues on an annual basis, with the goal of increasing the rate of scientific growth in my lab, and thus the rate at which I can obtain additional funding in the future.
I can see where this is coming from - the need to grow now to produce data to cash in later - but the problems are many. Perhaps most importantly is dealing with the issues surrounding using funds from one project to start the next. This is essentially unavoidable to a certain extent because the bar for "preliminary" data is so high in the current environment and there is no question that taking what you proposed to the next level is within the bounds of fair play. Technology changes during the lifetime of a grant and sometimes opportunities come up that are well within the scope of the funded project. As I'm writing this, Drugmonkey left the following comment on the same post basically saying the same thing:
Regarding "between projects", I suppose you have to think about whether it fits the mission of the agency or directorate/IC. I would not worry too much about, say, pursuing a topic that differed in some but not all particulars from the proposed grant. In NIDA land for example, doing work of a similar nature that involved a different abused drug. Or pursuing different outcome measures for the same drug. Investigation under some cancer model might be too far, even though it is of interest to the broader agency.
Basically, does it pass the smell test?
Interestingly I've gotten critical remarks from a program officer even when doing pretty much exactly what we proposed *plus* some other stuff that I thought was clearly related to the core goals (and subsequent progress verified this). That only happened once and that whole branch of the IC is a little odd in their thinking at present.
So where does that leave NEW projects that sit just (or way) outside your current funding? I know what the company line is here, but what is common practice? How does one get money together to pursue a novel line of research? It happens all the time, but where does the money come from? Small internal pots? Exploratory grants? PI overhead return? Skimming from other projects? Perhaps using consumables paid for by the feds on an unfunded project is a pretty gray area, but what if there is a special reagent or need to generate specific novel data?
Or are people just leaving a preliminary proposal under their pillows at night?