Universities and funding agencies have good reasons for developing detailed systems of accountability for how grants are spent and how grant funded researchers spend their grant funded time, not to mention effort. Among physical scientists, it is common to blame the bio scientists for the never-ending ethics training and insane paperwork. (I'll just put that out there, and then drop it.)
As regular FSP readers surely know by now, some of these rules and regulations make me crazy.
Example: I found myself promising recently that I would never ever ever use a software site license that I purchased with one grant for any activity not related to that specific grant.
I suppose that in some ways that makes sense, but it would make more sense if what I had purchased was something that could potentially have non-research related uses: a car (in which I might drive my cats to the beach for ice cream cones), a yacht (in which I might have wild parties, when I wasn't being seasick), even a computer (on which I might blog and upload cat wrestling videos to YouTube).
But consider that this software, which has one and only one highly specialized purpose and which cannot be used for anything unrelated to that one highly specialized purpose, can and will only be used in the pursuit of Scientific Knowledge.
Would it really be unethical if I used my grant-purchased site license for a different project? According to the rules and regulations, it would be unethical to do so, but it would be stupid not to. Furthermore, it would be a waste of money to purchase an expensive site license for every single project that could use that software.
The rules should be rewritten to say that purchases such as this one can only be used in the pursuit of Scientific Knowledge. That way, everyone wins. My research group gets to do lots of interesting science things without losing sleep over the ethics, the funding agency facilitates the interesting science through their generous support and sensible policies, we proclaim our results to the world and thank the funding agency in our papers, and everyone is happy.
13 years ago