Just Keep Swimming

Wishing I were more like the Brain, but feeling very much like Pinky. NARF!

For the past several days – weeks maybe – perhaps months – I don’t remember really – point is, for a while I’ve been working on grant applications. It’s sadly a necessary evil for my job.

It’s also a large slice of catch-22. You see, one needs funding to pay for graduate students to help produce publications related to one’s research program (as publication quantity is the current currency of good research). But one can’t get funding unless they have publications. So if one doesn’t have students, one can’t produce as many publications, and the money can’t be garnered from said granting agency.

Awesome system, no?

Anyway, as I mentioned, I’m in the process of writing up several grant applications to get my research program off the ground. Several things about this bother me.

  • First and foremost, I don’t like the idea of just hammering out useless publications. I’m more about quality than quantity any day. I mean, as much as I love chocolate, I’d rather have a small square of fine dark chocolate over the waxed version that one can pick up at the Kwik-E-Mart in bulk. Mmm, chocolate.
  • Second, I’m not sure that the amount of effort that goes into writing a grant is worth it. The probability of being funded is rather low. I mean, with the amount of time I’ve put into writing the grants, I probably could have been producing several quality papers.
  • Third, if I am funded, the amount of money that I might be awarded is tiny (in relative terms). For example, if I believe that my research program requires 1 Post Doctoral Fellowship (approx. $45000 per year, for 2 years), 2 PhDs (approx. $20000 per year, for 3 years each), and 10 Masters students (approx. $17000 per year, for 1 year each), I’d have to ask for $380000, or approximately $76000 per year given a 5 year program duration. These numbers aren’t unusual for a research program (in terms of people), and it doesn’t include equipment, travel, conferences, etc. Sadly, since I’m a Statistician, the granting agency typically only funds about $15000 per year. While $15000 per year is nothing to laugh at (considering I made about that much per year during the end of my PhD), it still leaves a shortfall of $61000. Awesome!

As I said though, it’s a necessary evil. And so I sit and try to write an application that contains a vision of my research program which the reviewers will feel is worthy of funding.

Let me restate that. I try to write.

Can we say easily distracted? I mean, everything seems immensely more entertaining than this grant application. YouTube? Sure thing. Facebook? You know it. Twitter? I’m all over that shit. Yoga? Don’t mind if I do. Take photos of Elliot when I’ve already got about a zillion photos? Damn skippy. Write a blog entry? Clearly. It’s the thing to do.

Truly, what is abundantly clear is that this grant won’t write itself. I need to stop with the distractions and buckle down. So with that dear readers, I shall leave you with these very wise words from Dory of Finding Nemo fame.

I’ve got some swimming to do.


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