One of the things that I was totally oblivious to (and unprepared for) prior to starting this tenure track position was how critical timing is when dealing with proposals. I’m fortunate enough that I do have some money coming in from proposals, so that’s a good start. However, now that I have money coming in, I need students to work on projects. Unfortunately, my funded projects are on topics that where none of my current students are working. And the topics for my current students are sufficiently different that it would be unwise to switch them to a different project. Thus, I’m in a time crunch where money has been funded but there are no students around to support. This is one of several issues with timing that I’ve seen. I’m going to point a few issues below but feel free to comment below and add some more.

Are there students? If yes, then you will inevitably be able to find a student, even if the student isn’t the ideal candidate. This may drain some of your time getting this student up to speed or getting them on the right track but it probably means you can get some research done. If no, then you’re in the case that I’m in right now. If these funds had come through about 2 months ago, I would have been able to hire any of the numerous students that streamed into my office looking for research opportunities. Alas, I didn’t have funding and these students found other internships and jobs and have decided not to pursue graduate school. That’s a double whammy because not only do you lose a student for a summer, but then it discourages some of them from graduate school.

Do the interests (and abilities) of the incoming students match year research area?  With classes starting soon, I know there will be new graduate students starting but I’m not sure if the incoming class has an interest in this area. This could potentially force a researcher into taking on a student that they would rather not.

Grant Office Efficiency: It turns out that if you want to submit a grant at SnowU, you have to give the grants office 5 business days prior to submission date for internal processing. That is eons as far as I’m concerned. For instance, I recycled my rejected NSF standard proposal into a CAREER proposal starting Friday morning when it was due the following Tuesday (fingers crossed!). I didn’t even decide to submit the CAREER until there was 3 business days left. Luckily I have a good relationship with my grants office and they grudgingly gladly worked with me to get it submitted. I also found out during this process than another faculty member with a joint appointment in a different department has a department requirement of another 5 business days, so that faculty member has to submit proposals 10 business days ahead of the actual due date. I find that to be sheer lunacy.

Purchasing: Yes, I’m going to point it out for the sake of being obvious. But complaining about delays in purchasing is like arguing on the internet… it’s just dumb.

Internal Grant Processing: Even when a grant has been suggested for an awards, you still have to haggle about the contract, final budget, and then deal with waiting for account numbers. Two of my grants have had taken over 10 months to get through this process, which is one of the reasons I don’t have a student working on it right now.

What other timing issues are there when dealing with grants, proposals, students, and faculty? I know I’m forgetting some!


[Photo Credit: Vince]

1 comment

I think the research offices everywhere require at least a week prior to the actual deadline – I found the easiest way around that is simply that I mark whichever deadline I am aiming for in my calendar as a week prior to whatever it actually is (so, e.g. this summer the funding agency had a big grant deadline on 10 July, but I put it in my diary as 3 July). This makes for much less stress when interacting with research office and makes everyone there happy, while for me it just means that I rearrange my time so that I write the proposals earlier than my colleagues.

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