I’m working on another grant proposal, this one about an order of magnitude larger than the last. But still I am running into the same problem: the cost of doing the science I want to do pushes right up against the limit of the funding.
In the case of this particular grant, I have three main objectives: (1) Answer a cool science question that has intrigued me for a while; (2) fund a grad student; and (3) purchase some equipment that my inadequate startup money couldn’t cover.
Objectives 2 and 3 obviously have some significant (and fixed) costs associated with them. The cost associated with Objective 1 is a little more squishy, but there are certain things that I am going to need if I am going to answer my question. I’ve got to get to my field location and pay for the analyses, for example.
And this research, if funded, is also going to take a significant amount of time next summer. Which brings me to my question.
How do I prioritize my own summer salary when I am making out a budget for a grant proposal?
For those who aren’t clear what I’m talking about when I say summer salary, here’s how it works. My contract with the university is a 9 month contract (although my paychecks get spread out over 12 months), but in order to get tenure I’m going to have to produce some research. And the most uninterrupted time to do research is the summer, when I am technically not getting paid. Thus, when faculty write grant proposals, they often include some amount of “summer salary” to compensate them for their time. At least in my experience, the amount of summer salary requested is some small fraction of the amount of time actually spent on the project.
I have several contradictory feelings about summer salary, but I could really use some advice from those wiser and more experienced than I.
I think that I am too close to the whole impoverished grad student, doing science for the pure love of it thing to have a mature perspective. I see my paycheck now and realize that I make 2x what I made as a post-doc and it doesn’t seem so bad. But then again, people with a bachelor’s degree in engineering and 3 years experience are making 2x what I do. So it won’t make or break our family budget if I do or don’t get summer salary.
But then again, it doesn’t seem fair that I spend a month working on the project this summer and not get compensated for it at all. That’s a month that I could be playing with Minnow or enjoying some good books (or, hey, even prepping my fall classes), that I will instead be going into the field and doing some strenuous physical and mental work. And Minnow will be in daycare.
But, on the third hand, I don’t want to sacrifice the quality of the science, just so I feel like I am getting paid for my efforts. I don’t want to discover that I need some critical piece of equipment or that field costs were greater than expected and not have room in my budget to handle those things because I took summer salary.
What are the norms in your field? What do you do? What do I do? And, how do I explain my three hands?