Archive for the 'Uncategorized' category

Non Transparent

Jul 05 2011 Published by under Uncategorized

A reader wrote with an interesting question about asking department heads (and deans) for matching funds. How are decisions about matching funds made? In this case, the reader asked for a rather modest amount of matching funds for an NSF grant, and was turned down, although the same department head had given 20x as much money to someone else recently.

Even in departments and institutions that have tried to make other aspects of academic life more 'transparent' in terms of how decisions are made (e.g., hiring, tenure), the distribution of discretionary funds remains one of the more mysterious and seemingly-arbitrary processes. In many places, these decisions are made by department heads and deans, with no systematic evaluation of who gets how much money and for what purpose.

Perhaps some administrator-readers will chime in to explain the basis for their decisions on these matters, but the following are likely factors in a decision about matching fund requests:

- How much $ is requested?

- Is the requested amount realistic given budget constraints, including other recent requests for such funds by this person and others?

- Who is doing the requesting? (leading to additional factors regarding this person's productivity, other contributions to the department/institution, previous requests for matching funds)

These requests are typically rather episodic. They are tied to grant deadlines, but in a department in which faculty receive grants from many different funding agencies and programs, there may be many such deadlines, so these requests are typically made one or a few at a time throughout the year. There is no time when all the requests for a year or a term are considered against each other, such that decisions could be made using some prioritization or sharing scheme. This might contribute to the apparent arbitrariness of decisions about matching funds in some cases.

Administrators: How do you make decisions on these requests? What factors do you consider? Are you systematic or arbitrary? (according to you)

From my point of view as a requester of matching funds, I have never had a request turned down, so I can't speak from experience of what I would do in that case. Has anyone reading this ever successfully argued for a reversal of a negative decision on matching funds? If so, how did you approach it?

And has anyone who was turned down in a request for matching funds asked for (and received) an explanation that seemed reasonable?


12 responses so far

Ask a Science Professor

Oct 20 2010 Published by under Uncategorized

Elsewhere in the blogosphere and in occasional essays in The Chronicle of Higher Education, I am known as Female Science Professor (FSP), but here in this new Scientopic blog collective, I am just a Science Professor. Why am I here? Is FSP over? Will I, as Science Professor without the extra adjective, stop writing about women-in-science issues? What will I do in this new space?

Why I am here. I don't really have a good answer to this, but some people I think I like, at least in a virtual way, asked me to be here, and I decided not to say no.

FSP yet lives. I will still mostly blog over in my little corner of Blogspot as FSP, but once in a while I will also be over here. I hope that is not too confusing, but I have a (sort of) plan (see below).

What about the missing F? As a simple Science Professor, I will write about the same things I write about as FSP. I dropped the F from SP here because, if this is really SCIENTOPIA, I should be able to be what I want to be: a Science Professor who happens to be female but who is not constantly reminded that she is a strange and exotic creature: a mid-career, female professor in a physical sciences field. In my personal utopian Scientopia, no one would ever introduce me before a talk as an excellent example of a "female scientist", no one would accuse me of getting a grant or award only because I am female, and I would be paid as much as my male peers (for example).

What I will do here in Scientopia. As FSP, I get a lot of e-mail from readers asking for advice. Although I don't answer all my e-mail, some I answer privately, and some I answer in the form of a blog post. I am rather erratic about answering e-mail, depending on what is going on in my real life and whether I get to the e-mail before it gets lost in my inbox. Here, as a Science Professor, I will try to answer more of my e-mail questions from readers, or at least pose questions and issues for discussion.

I already have a bit of a back-log of questions, but feel free to leave a comment or send your own if you are so inclined. For this I will still use my FSP e-mail:

27 responses so far