Territorial demarcation

Jul 19 2011 Published by under Uncategorized

We're moving. My office, that is. The Unit I once belonged to (biomedical informatics) has been subsumed into the Office of Research, along with a couple of other bits and pieces. I now belong to those bits and pieces.

My "old" boss is now doing her job and mine, and looking for a replacement for our faculty technical guru who got a wicked good TT faculty offer at a Big 10 university.

I now work for someone else, at my same rank - the nebulous and newly invented title of Program Manager (above project manager, but below director). But I am now Program Manager of Grant Support (I wanted "Research Development", but am too low on the totem pole to argue the case). It should be interesting, although it takes me further from research itself. I had an offer for a Directorship of Faculty Development and I turned it down to stay in the Office of Research and now I'm doing pretty much the same thing as I would have been only for a different boss and without the pay rise and promotion.

Ho hum, you win some, you lose some.

I'm not badly off, and I've fought and won an almost 50% pay rise since leaving my postdoc three years ago. I'm not great in nebulous roles though, and this is nebulous to the extreme. No real remit, other than, "We need more grants. Do something to help the faculty." I've got some ideas and I've crowd-sourced for more. If anyone has specific suggestions for improving faculty grant application submission rates (and maybe even success rates!) leave a comment. I'm looking at NIH and - shock horror - non-NIH funding. In this funding climate beggars can't be choosers I say.

We have a new Vice Chancellor starting soon and I need to consolidate this position and do wondrous things in the next couple of months. I'll write about them and we can share my successes and/or failures. In a year I hope to either have a (non-TT) faculty appointment as Director (administrative faculty) or be on the job market looking for a move.

Right now though, I am making my introductions to the other staff (they know me but not my new role). And we've been ordered to pack up and get ready to move to new digs. And the territorial demarcation has begun - the place reeks of piss and vinegar as squabbles over space and supplies and furniture break out amongst the junior staff. They don't get it - this isn't the fight you need to be having There's a battle going on and our jobs are on the line.

Cry havoc and let slip the dogs of War!

7 responses so far

  • drugmonkey says:

    If anyone has specific suggestions for improving faculty grant application submission rates (and maybe even success rates!)

    Without knowing anything specific about your Uni's baseline or the scope of your mandate...

    1) streamline the submission process as much as you can, get the BS and red tape out of the face of the faculty.

    2) do what you can to accommodate "late" submitting, i.e., right up to the point of the deadline. okay to threaten the hell out of them to get the docs to your Grants/contracts office a week ahead but work miracles to get them damn things submitted, no matter what.

    3) heart to heart chats with n00b faculty. with as much data as you are permitted. how many grants do Joe and Jane successful put in? tell the noobs they need to get there right off the bat. every round a submission...

    4) improve your faculty participation on study section. may require a lot of educating of Chairs who have a traditional view that junior folk should never serve. point out the new initiative of CSR to bring in the noobest of the noobs for 2-application review visits.

    5) grantsmithing workshops and roundtables. yeah, I know they can be a lame waste of time but you may improve a couple of them through this process

  • namnezia says:

    What DM said, except for maybe #5. Grant workshops are useless, UNLESS they actually involve writing a grant while doing a weeks long workshop. Then the workshop attendees can actually have their work critiqued. Also, offer to pair up junior faculty with senior mentors that will review their grants. Most people do this on their own anyway, but it helps to have this formalized for some.

    Also, for departments that don't have an competent admin structure, offer them the service of assembling all the non-science parts of the grant - justifications, budgets, etc. In my dept. we just turn in the various sections to our admin person and she assembles the document in grants.gov.

    Finally, you could talk to individual faculty to learn about their research and keep a database. That way you can keep them informed when funding opportunities come along from private foundations or other non-government sources, as well as special PA's and RFA's that they might have otherwise missed.

  • brooksphd says:

    Excellent suggestions, thanks gentlemen.

    A couple of those ideas are on my short list of "stuff to do ASAP", and I agree with the workshop side of things. We could do 'courses' in writing, and something like that already exists here but on a smaller scale. We did a two-day workshop in April that was a huge success and the presenter (our main campus Director of Res Dev) made it very interactive - ready an NSF RFA and then a letter of intent and deciding if it met the grant needs/focus. Things like that - different aspects of critical thinking/reading we develop.

    The red tape issue is gonna be a beast to fight, at least as far as deadlines. It's a wall of death here: 5 days before deadline or it doesn't go in.

    Ideally, as this position matures, I want junior faculty coming t0 my office 4-6 months ahead of deadline and telling me what they want to submit. i can help them buyild a time table of vital information (don't do your routing sheet at the last minute: the Dean reads all the grants...it takes 2-3 days for him to sign off), as well as point them at resources to help them fight the red tape: How Do IRB, How Do F&A, How do Budget etc.

    In time I hope to resources to provide more staff assistance, in case of ineffective business managers etc.

  • WhizBANG! says:

    One suggestion for reducing red tape: JIT allocation on the Uni side.
    My immediate past employer still required itemized budgets for all grants submitted, including modular NIH grants. They said this was because they still had to apportion the funds for tracking purposes, yada, yada, yada...
    Of course, 90% of those submissions don't get funded. Of the other 10%, there is ample time between the time a score is received and the time a notice of award is sent to work out the apportionment. Hours of effort could be saved this way (if that's the scenario where you work).

  • brooksphd says:

    Ooh! That's an excellent idea! I need to look into that. IIRC the last few grants I've submitted they wanted a VERY detailed breakdown on a spreadsheet even though the submission was a modular $25k/block grant...

  • If anyone has specific suggestions for improving faculty grant application submission rates (and maybe even success rates!) leave a comment.

    Internal mock study sections, with written critiques and resumes of discussion.