A recent article in Slate.com about biomedical researchers scrambling for stimulus funding caught my attention because of this statement:
At the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, for instance, faculty members normally spend about 50 percent of their time working on grants, .. in March and April, however, faculty members have spent more like 75 percent to 90 percent of their time going after stimulus dollars.
The first part of the statement didn't surprise me at first, perhaps because the phrase is ambiguous. I interpreted 'working on grants' to mean 'working on grant-related activities', including writing proposals, but the second part of the sentence strongly suggests that this statement actually means that med school faculty typically spend 50% of their time writing proposals.
That's huge. It doesn't surprise me that the % time is higher than that of physical sciences faculty members, but I wouldn't have guessed that it was 50% (if that number is, in fact, correct).
The amount of time I spend working on proposals varies a lot from month to month, and in some cases from year to year, but it is definitely not 50%. If I spent 50% of my time writing proposals, I wouldn't have time to do the research that was funded by the grant. Yes, much of the research is done by graduate students and postdocs, but not all of it.
I like writing proposals, but I would not want to spend so much time attempting to acquire grants, leaving little or no time for doing science. For me, a reasonable % proposal planning and writing time that can potentially provide me with enough funding for research, not take over my life, and still let me enjoy both proposal-writing and science-doing is probably somewhere around 25% (±5). That number includes time thinking about proposals and thinking about thinking about proposals, not just the writing.
Has my proposal writing been affected by the appearance of stimulus funding? Only a little, mostly involving a request for some snazzy new equipment, as part of a large interdisciplinary group of scientists and engineers who all want the same snazzy new equipment.
Owing to the fact that I spend a lot of time doing various other professor things (for example, teach and write things other than proposals), there is no way that I could spend 90% of my time (or even 75%) on proposal writing, no matter how many hundreds of millions of dollars were in the offing.
6 months ago