Friday, September 28, 2012

When I'm Too Old For Early Career Awards...

…I start to think, which is probably a bad idea.

I am approaching that academic age where I am becoming ineligible for many early career awards. For some, I only have one shot left. This alarms me because I think that my chances of getting funding from these agencies is more likely through this mechanism, rather than competing against big boys and girls in unsolicited submissions. I haven't gotten any appreciable funding in over a year, so I am beginning to worry about how to fund the new students I took on. (Why did I take two new students?? Why?).

So I find myself in that funny place where I don't yet have tenure, but my eligibility for early career awards is over or nearly over. To comfort myself, I've focused on getting my backlog of publications out the door. The chances of getting published are much higher than that of getting funded. And, publications lead to students graduating, invited talks, and perhaps -perhaps - more funding.

I was thinking about my constant unease over funding, when I realized that this problem would never go away - ever. As long as I do this job, I will constantly be writing proposals and feeding hungry graduate students. And then I thought about this in a larger context. The U.S. wants more domestic students to pursue graduate degrees in STEM disciplines. Professors use federal research grants to pay for these students' tuition and stipend. If the U.S. government remains stagnant in federal research dollars, then so does the number of graduate students we can take on. So why not just increase the federal spending on academic research? Anyways, my vote in this presidential election is going to go to whoever says they'll put the most $$$ into research.

1 comment:

GMP said...

I hear you. I also had a dry spell last year and started panicking that my funds would completely dry up. Luckily, two new grants this year - phew!

But I understand what you are saying about the transition from being an early career investigator to competing with the big guys; it does require an attitude adjustment, but I am sure you will be successful, even if you initially face rejections (I did too; I was honestly thinking whether I had what it takes, or whether I never really knew how to write real proposals, once the new investigator sheen wore off...)

Also, about having to grant hunt forever: I have caught myself thinking -- I only have to do this another 10 or more times (assuming a grant is 3 years), secure multiple grants in a given year and then catch a little breather for half a year or so until it's time to start writing for the next cycle... I never thought I would ever retire, but if I do, it will be so I could catch a break from writing grants...

So fingers crossed, and just keep at it! That's the only way. Good luck!