In response to this recent comment from Dave,
You need people to do the work, but you don't need AS MANY. No...way. Not in a million years. Give me a break DM. You know this...as well as I do.
which he made as an elaboration on this comment
The role of the NIH is to fund science, not prop up the entire community by providing them with salaries. I see way to many R01s with multiple, multiple techs, co-PIs and post-docs that do zero work on the grant in question. The grant is used purely for salaries and bennies. I think that is wrong, personally.
I had this response:
I do. In fact I need more. It is my considered, and by now relatively experienced, view that for may types of research (read: the ones I am most familiar with) the $250K full modular grant does not pay for itself. In the sense that there is a certain expectation of productivity, progress, etc on the part of study sections and Program that requires more contribution than can be afforded (especially when you put it in terms of 40 hr work weeks) within the budget. Trainees on individual fellowships or training grants, undergrads working for free or work study discount, cross pollination with other grants in the lab (which often leads to whinging like your comment), pilot awards for small bits, faculty hard money time...all of these sources of extra effort are frequently poured into a one-R01 project. I think they are, in essence, necessary.
How about it, y'all? Do you see the amount of people-effort that can be afforded* within $250,000 in direct costs as covering the scope of work that is expected as reasonable output in your fields of interest? Be sure to specify the approximate contribution levels of PI, postdocs, grads, undergrads and techs and use appropriate salary ranges.
There are links on the idea of "productivity" under a grant award at the end of this post, the scatterplot posted by Jeremy Berg some time ago is highly relevant.
*don't forget to add benefits on top of your salary estimate.