grant distribution

S L Forsburg forsburg at nospamsalk.edu
Thu Jun 19 17:44:04 EST 1997


Peg matkisso at opal.tufts.edu writes...

> Dr. Forsburg has commented on the number of _extrememly_ well funded
> labs. It
> makes me think of Hughs labs that also have large RO1 grants, or labs
> with >2 big RO1's. Is it justifiable when young investigators are
> having
> trouble getting even smaller grants? I hate to sound Marxist, but it
> could be
> seen as a bit of a wealth distribution problem.

Yup!  I agree.  

> When Varmus first took over as head of NIH, I remember reading him in
> an
> interview saying that the days of big labs might be over.......

> Dr. Varmus was at Tufts to give an address several m,onths ago, and at
> the
> reception that followed someone asked him whether the kinds of policy
> changes
> he had hinted at would ever take place. His answer was, essentially,
> no.

That's because all his friends probably called him up and said,
well, but MY lab NEEDS $790,000 direct per year....  ;-)
 
> I think competing for grants is a good thing -- it forces you to write
> the best
> proposal you can.....

Yes, the first couple times it's helpful.  Then it's jsut nitpicking
and rearranging in hopes that the committee will go for it this
time.  It's hard to do much when they don't have any problems
really with the science, and the main problem is that there were
6 established guys up for renewal, doing good stuff, and only
10% of the grants will be funded...

> We all have anecdotal information, but does anybody have good,
> controlled data?
> Or do we simply need to do the experiment of capping grant funds?

I'd love to see it, but it isn't simple.  For example, those of
us on soft money need the equivalent of an extra grant to pay for
salary and benefits.  That's the problem with capped grants like 
the NIH R29 , which requires 50% effort and caps at $70,000.  
Once I put 50% of my salary and benefits on that grant, there 
isn't money left to pay a student or a tech.  But I'd be in favor
of a sliding cap that took soft salaries into account. 

WE all have to get used to the fact that we won't be able to
run big labs.  I believe that science will move ahead better
with lots of people thinking and doing, rather than a few
bigshots.  We'll see if it happens that way...

-susan
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S L Forsburg, PhD  forsburg at salk.edu
Molecular Biology and Virology Lab          
The Salk Institute, La Jolla CA 
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