Monday, August 16, 2010

Transferring Equipment

I've been bummed since the last post, but let's move on to transfer some equipment...

As an untenured faculty switching universities, moving with your equipment can be tricky. Nearly all of the major instrumentation in my lab was purchased with start-up money from old U., so technically the major instrumentation belongs to old U. - not to me! However, I did want some items transferred from old U. to new U. to give my lab a quick start. I started by getting a list of everything I ever bought. Anything that was tagged was carefully accounted for. If I wanted to move a tagged item, I had request in writing to the dean (yes, the same dean that I walked out on) that I wanted to move the item, why I wanted to move it, and it's original price. Rather than try to take everything with me and pick a fight, I chose to request only items that were essential to my lab. The items that stayed were heavily used by my collaborators' labs, so I think I'm doing them a favor by giving them free equipment.

Now just because you "requested" the item doesn't mean you get it, and it certainly doesn't mean that it's free! The dean kindly approved my entire list, but it doesn't end there. Each item's depreciated value was calculated, and an invoice was sent to new U. Using startup funds from new U., I then purchased my depreciated equipment from old U.

If equipment is untagged (like a hotplate) or low value (like beakers), then the lines are fuzzy. Talking with your department head can help figure out if it's OK to take it or not, and it varies from head to head and school to school.

If the equipment was purchased using grant money and the grant is still active, then transferring the equipment is possible. If the grant is inactive, then it appears that university can "own" the equipment (not entirely sure on this one).

I've heard horror stories from other faculty who have switched institutions. Administrators can try to seize grants and equipment, freeze salaries, and so on, so it's best not to burn bridges. The easiest place to tick off people seems to be on the issue of equipment.

So what happens to all the equipment that I left behind? It becomes property of the school, and then other faculty can get the equipment by writing a justification for why they need it and so on. The administration then doles out my equipment based on need (one would hope).

And a word to anyone moving - take your ovens!! It takes friggin forever to replace them.


Unbalanced Reaction said...

Great post! I never would have thought that ovens (of all things!) would a sticking point.

Amy said...

When I left my first university, I left almost everything. Between the depreciated cost the dean would charge and the moving costs, buying new (upgraded!) instrumentation was not that much more expensive. I did bring my desktop computer and some custom-made glassware, but was VERY careful to negotiate everything with my chair and make sure none of my students "accidentally" brought anything they weren't supposed to. No reason to burn bridges! I did have the advantage that my students were allowed to stay behind in our old lab space for a few months while I came to new U and set up the lab so that it would be ready to go when they arrived. Minimizing downtime was CRUCIAL to avoiding disruption to their theses and my career!