Thursday, May 22, 2014

Research Grants

Most everyone has heard of research grants, at least somewhere.  Research grants are a BIG deal to professors and private scientists.  Because the wheels of research run on money, grants are the fuel and grants are a good deal for grant recipients.

Money drives lots of things, so it is no surprise that money drives research.  Let's think for a little about what sorts of influences grant money might have on research results:

  • Some topics are more fundable than others.  So $$ influences WHAT is studied.
  • Some methods are more fundable than others.  So $$ influences HOW things are studied.
  • Follow-on funding is only going to come when positive results are found in the initial study.  So $$$ influences WHAT IS FOUND.
  • Some populations are more fundable than others.  So $$ influences WHO is studied.

One of the little-known aspects of research funding is that the host institution charges the funder for "overhead" which means the funder pays for the lights, the water, the bricks and mortar.  The neat things about this "overhead" is that it is never on the budget, because you won't KNOW whether you'll be funded.  What this means is... no one knows about this money.  It is essentially designated funds, which means everyone who gets some of this money, can do anything they want, within the law.

Our local University charges 47% as overhead.  Soooo, on a million dollar grant $470,000 is overhead. Half that goes to the college dean of the faculty who brought in the $$.  OF that half, the dean should send half of the half (.25) to the department and half of that (.125) should go to the investigator who won the grant.  That means the investigator gets $125k.  Not a bad deal, not at all.  Keep in mind that, again, this $$ isn't on the budget.

Soo, if you have data that counteracts a highly fundable theory, you're welcome to keep that info to yourself.  So $$ influences research findings too!  So, say something like global climate change is extremely lucrative, and anyone who challenges it is killing the goose that lays those golden eggs.

Scripture tells us that "the love of money is the root of all sorts of evil things."  I Tim 6:10.  And, from my view, it is hard NOT to love money... at least for research investigators.

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