Saturday, September 4, 2010

Funding (feed me :-p)

Researchers talk a lot about funding. If we get a dollar every time any researcher says the word "funding", we will be very rich within a year. We will be able to retire from writing long passive voice sentences, and do more important things such as playing "Super Mario Bros" on Nintendo Wii. Anyways.

We all need money, so the importance of funding is obvious. What we want to tell you, is that research funding is a bit weird (many things about us researchers are, so not a big deal :-p).

Research funding is funding that is needed for doing research, that is, doing our job. Suppose you are a doctor in a hospital, and your work gets funded the same way research does. Here is how it will work:

1. When you get your job as a doctor, you will have a stethoscope, a chair, and a monthly salary.

2. You ask for a table, and are told "due to financial restrictions, you have to apply for funding to get a table."

3. You write a proposal about using a table to treat the patients. Your proposal includes:

(a) A survey that tells you how Hypocrites used a table a long time ago, and medicine today is much better thanks to that table.

(b) A list of things that you are going to do, with your new table (okay, if you get one). You have to make sure to omit that you might put a cup of tea on it once in a while. That is misappropriation of research grants.

(c) A list of expenses that incur in buying a table. You have to get the numbers right; not too cheap, not too expensive.

(d) If you are asking for funding from a drug(err... I mean medicine; not the other type) company, a short description on how the table can be used to display their products.

4. You submit your proposal, and find that about a 100 more doctors in your hospital have submitted similar proposals. Ouch.

5. A board of officials from the health ministry, or a drug company, assess the proposals.

6. If you are unlucky, you don't get funding for the table. You are bitter for a while, but then things get back to normal and you apply for the next round.

7. If you are lucky (or if your proposal was very convincing), you get the funding.

8. Depending on the situation, you funding comes with conditions such as:

(a) For direct expenses only; that is, you cannot use the money to buy paperweights that look like cartoon characters.

(b) Your prescriptions should have a footer saying something like "this work was supported by a grant from DONKEY(the agency/company who gave you funding)."

(c) You have to write regular reports about how the table has helped you to do the things that you mentioned in your proposal.

Notes:

1. A percentage of the funding will go to the hospital administration.

2. In some private hospitals, you could be fired for not being able to get funding to buy a table.

3. Sometimes, you don't really get enough money to buy a decent table. So, you either buy a stool and manage with it, or buy a broken three-legged table and ask a nurse to keep holding the other side (don't worry if you don't get it; I just made it up :-p).

You might wonder why we have to do all these just to get money to do our work. Well, that's "research funding" for you :o)