A recent discussion thread moved into the topic of proper/improper expenditures under NIH grant awards. Our beloved commenter Uncle Sol Rivlin observed that
The bigger the money the more daring and crooked are the crooks. Science absolutely does not prevent the crooks from acting crookedly.
No, it doesn't. But there isn't a whole lot of money to be made for the majority of us in science. And I think what trends over into a sensationalistic focus on cases of severe malfeasance gives a distorted perception of how the vast majority of scientists operate in their daily lives. I just don't think that being focused on strategies for keeping the grant money flowing to keep your 5 person lab afloat is the same think as taking hundreds of thousands of dollars per year in consulting gigs to BigPharma. Obviously some would disagree.
Thinking on the money issue, however, brought me back to one of my favorite things to ponder, i.e., how the taxpaying public views my career.
For those who may be potential trainees, of course, it is necessary to emphasize just where along the track of "education" that this becomes a paying job. Most people I speak with recognize, however, that I have a job doing science.
I am frequently found explaining how my soft-money job is supported by their taxpayer funds and how NIH grants fit into that equation. People with whom I speak periodically are well aware that sometimes I'm stressed about grants and sometimes I'm happy with a new award. What is interesting is a concept that the occasional person seems to assume- based on familiarity with business, I guess. Something I'd never really thought about until the first time someone asked.
Many nonscientists think that somehow my compensation should be tied to grant "success". Meaning that when I'm flying high on a new Notice of Award from the NIH they assume that somehow this will increase my salary.
Nope. It doesn't work that way. Yes, a new grant award assures some fraction of my salary for another interval of up to 5 years but that's about it. Additional grants merely divide up the responsibility for paying a salary that is dependent solely on local payscales and promotions.
Anyone else had to disabuse a nonscientist of this notion that additional grant success should result in better personal income?