…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.