My department/division/university has been reevaluating how lab and other work space is allocated to faculty. Space is limited, but for as long as I've been here, some faculty members with no research programs (no students, no postdocs, no grants, no activity) have retained their lab space. There is one particular lab in my building that is used only to store a faculty member's bicycle, and another that has not been entered at all in years. This has long annoyed me and others, as several of my colleagues and I are pressed for space and could use those labs for scientific purposes.
Taking away someone's lab space is a tricky thing, politically, or so I've been told. I would think that having an unused lab would be stressful for the lab 'owner', but my unproductive colleagues don't seem to be losing any sleep over it. I don't see how anyone can justify their clinging to these spaces, but no administrators have wanted to 'go there'.
It's possible that things might be changing now. We are increasingly being asked to justify our use of space, including generating sufficient indirect costs from grants to justify our the lab space we each currently have. I think this might be a humane way to reclaim some of this space. It makes the lab reassignment much less a personal issue, and more one of stark economics. I wouldn't advocate that someone lose their lab if they have a gap in funding, but only if the lack of funding was the result of a long term lack of any effort even to seek funding.
Even so, it's difficult to escape the personal aspects of it. My department chair asked me today what I would do with one of these unused lab spaces if he reassigned it to me, and I had lots of ideas. This lab would have to be reassigned against the will of the current faculty member whose lab it is. I asked the chair how he would go about this reassignment, and he wasn't sure. If he does move forward with this, I strongly recommended that he phrase it in terms of indirect costs and long term grant/proposal activity, so that the situation wasn't set up as Me vs. SeniorGuy.
10 months ago