From the email bag:
My question is: Should institutions pull back start-up funds from new PIs if R01s or equivalents are obtained before funds are burned? Should there be an expiration date for these funds?
Should? Well no, in the best of all possible worlds of course we would wish PIs to retain all possible sources of support to launch their program.
I can, however, see the institutional rationale that startup is for just that, starting. And once in the system by getting a grant award, the thinking goes, a PI should be self-sustaining. Like a primed pump.
And those funds would be better spent on starting up the next lab's pump.
The expiration date version is related, and I assume is viewed as an inducement for the PI to go big or go home. To try. Hard. Instead of eking it out forever to support a lab that is technically in operation but not vigorously enough to land additional extramural funding.
Practically speaking the message from this is to always check the details for a startup package. And if it expires on grant award, or after three years, this makes it important to convert as much of that startup into useful Preliminary Data as possible. Let it prime many pumps.
Thoughts, folks? This person was wondering if this is common. How do your departments handle startup funds?