We're a little crazy, about science!

The grant proposal

Well today one of my grant proposals is due. Technically it’s due tomorrow, but I always try to submit a day early. Why? Well, technical issues, I’m an anxious person, all that good stuff. This was an equipment grant and I did it at the request of my PI, it’s not the grant I want, but it’s a learning experience, or at least that’s how I’m treating it.

I don’t want it. The equipment being offered won’t help my work, so we’re sort of shoehorning it in and trying to adjust my research so that I could use the equipment. It would benefit the lab as a whole, look good on my CV, and even if I don’t get it, it’s good practice, so we did it and today I submit it.

Still, I wish it was for equipment I really wanted. There are a few pieces of particularly expensive tech that I’m looking to get. My eyes about popped out of my head when I heard the cost of one of the pieces (> $35,000), but my Co-PI looked particularly unfazed by it, so I thought that was reasonable. It wasn’t until the other day when we were discussing it that I thought to ask him what he thought.

His opinion was that it’s costly enough that we need a grant if we’re going to get the system (yet another thing I cannot talk about in detail… seems to happen more and more lately). The problem is, I’m not using it for what it’s designed to be used for. I’m using it for my super secret research technique that I’m developing. Bottom line, there’s no guarantee it will work. So we want to borrow a system to test it out before we commit to buying it.

It would be mutually beneficial of course, but the company is a little hesitant since if it doesn’t work we wouldn’t be purchasing it (for obvious reasons). So I was worried that we wouldn’t even get the chance to test it out. However, there was some good news on this front, it turns out that a lab at my University has purchased a system and it should be arriving next month, so we may be able to borrow it from them to collect even more pilot data.

Unfortunately they seem super excited at the idea of collaborating with my Co-PI, I mean I thought I was excited to work with him, but the email we got was… well, wow. That wouldn’t be a problem if we wanted to collaborate, but right now isn’t the best time for that, we have more projects than people and the last thing we want to do is toss even more on to the pile.

So now I’m stuck between potentially getting equipment I really don’t want, getting a collaborator neither my Co-PI or myself really want, or both. The best case is that we don’t get the equipment grant, the lab lends us the equipment with the understanding that now isn’t a good time for a collaboration, but hey maybe in the future, and I get to collect my pilot data with the super cool new system I really want because it would let me do a lot of really unique things that my current setup will not.

So why is all this stressing me out? Not only do I have the equipment grant to submit (against my will!!), my Co-PI wants me to take the lead on drafting the response to the other lab. Basically he’s leaving it to my discretion about how to handle the situation. I’ll email him how I think we should respond and he will do it. I love working with my Co-PI because he treats me more as an equal than a student and while I try to defer to him for a lot of things, I really respect that when I say I need data or equipment he makes it happen for me. It makes me excited to work with him and I think he appreciates that.

Still, in this particular case I wish he had more of an opinion on how to handle the situation. I’m sure if he doesn’t like my response he will say so, but I’m torn since I don’t want to lead the PI from that lab on thinking we will collaborate when that probably won’t happen, but this will probably be the only way we can trial the system without making a purchase commitment.

The takeaway for today? Being in charge of something gives you a lot of freedom to do whatever you want. However, it also comes with a lot of responsibility you may not want!


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