Recently someone in my general field of the physical sciences called me and asked if I would be willing to share information about my funding history with him. He is trying to make a case to his department that they hire someone in my sub-field, and he wanted to have some data to show what the possibilities were in terms of amounts and types of funding. He spent a while working gently up to his request for my funding data, as if he were asking me an intensely personal question. And then he was very apologetic about asking, and told me he would understand if I didn't want to share this information with him.
I don't know this person well, so I can understand that he might have been unsure about my response, but I thought his apologetic and hesitant request was strange because, as is typical for my field, all of my grants are from funding agencies that post grant information on the internet. Anyone can search these databases for my name and find out the amounts, durations, and subjects of my research grants, past and present.
I don't know why he didn't just look up my funding history, but for whatever reason, he decided to ask me in person. Even though funding information is publicly available, this colleague's apparent belief in the intimacy of the Grants Question is not unusual. Asking someone employed at a research university how many grants they have (or whether they have any grants) is not an impersonal request for information. It's the same as asking someone whether they are successful or whether they are desperate and anxiety-ridden (or deadwood).
In any case, I was happy to share the information with him because at the moment my funding situation is quite good. If it weren't, I probably wouldn't have been quite as happy to discuss this topic with him. Maybe I would have snarled "Go look it up!" and offered to tell him my salary, age, and weight instead.
5 weeks ago