Monday, June 18, 2012

Departmental Grants Guru

•  How much does a program officer with 5 years of service make?
•  How much extra money, in overhead, would such a person bring in if hired by my department to help us write grants full time?

I assume the second number is larger.

If my department has 20 faculty, and each is typically funded with one or two R01s per year, and this Departmental Grants Guru could nudge two $250K applications from  unfunded to funded, this would generate about $260K/yr in overhead. I assume that's enough to pay this person's salary. If not, then 3 R01's should be enough.

Even more importantly, think of the time saved. Young faculty spend measurably large portions of their time on grant writing. If average youngster could take 10% of her total effort and transfer it from grant-grubbing to other stuff, this would be $7500 in value gained (assuming a $75000 annual salary). This effect is even larger for older faculty, but presumably they don't need as much help.

As an economic proposition, having an in-house Departmental Grants Guru would seem to be wise. I imagine this person being a former PO. This person can help guide study section selection, can help with the writing at all stages, including shaping the ideas. Thinking of a good set of Aims. Brainstorming. Giving writing tips, etc, etc. 

Maybe this person even takes care of calling the actual PO, and the two of them chat using PO-language, and get the messages across more efficiently. This person also knows the faculty research interests and scans the RFA's and things.

This person will essentially assume the mentorship role that older faculty often provide pro bono (but not when they are busy).

This person would also, in my imagination, be in charge of the training grant, and helping to formulate or maintain a core grant. This would save a ton of time from the senior faculty. If the person has extra time, they could help the junior faculty with foundation applications. 

I'm not advocating for or against the creation of this position. But I am asking why it's not something that is done everywhere. So many of the other functions faculty used to do themselves is being farmed out to administrators. I'm not against this; it's division of labor, and it's probably more efficient. Why are grants left in the hands of people who are really supposed to be doing research?

(I guess one counterargument is that this essentially IS the job of the professor nowadays. The actual research is done by the grad students and the post-docs.)

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