Soft money research faculty on the chopping block

Alison McCook has a lengthy article now up on The Scientist website that illustrates how NIH grant funding shortfalls are coming home to roost, with soft money faculty first to be jettisoned.

In 2007, more than 4,000 NIH-funded researchers were denied grant renewals. For some, that means they have to close up shop.

The article itself is well-done, chronicling the experience of Alan Schneyer, a well-established and productive reproductive endocrinology researcher formerly at Massachusetts General Hospital, whose research program was shut down after three tries for a competing renewal of his NIH grant. However, I’ll be equally interested in following the comment thread, particularly for any responses to this anonymous poster’s queries:

If you lost your lab, please respond!
The article points out that 4000 R01s were not renewed in 2007.
How many scientists lost their labs?
If you did not lose your lab, what made a difference?
Do you still have a salary despite losing an R01?
What are your plans for continuing in basic research?
There is a dearth of information out there on how many scientists are now out of work. This is a chance to get some data on the effects of the flat NIH budget.

Other commenters have noted that one should not even think of pursuing soft money faculty positions during these times and cite universities as being partly to blame in expanding the pool of non-tenure track research professor slots over the last 10-15 years.
Not very encouraging news but I agree with the commenter that some follow-up efforts should be initiated to determine the impact of the current funding climate on the losses to the scientific enterprise.

2 thoughts on “Soft money research faculty on the chopping block

  1. OH I can’t wait to see the comments on this post.
    Institutions where your salary is protected are so rare anymore but they do exist. Problem is, most academic scientists don’t want to do the undergraduate teaching that is usually the trade for such salary support.
    I can tell you that in my institution if your grant is not renewed and you have tenure your salary is not affected (its 100% hard money). Your lab will go through a downsizing, and you will have to rely on the goodness of your chair to pay for your supplies. Your student’s will teach and their tuition/stipend etc. will be covered by a teaching assistantship. This is very demoralizing, but in the final analysis you still have a job and can run your lab, albeit at a lower level for a while.
    Not getting your renewal prior to tenure its a different story- but its pretty rare here that people go through a renewal prior to tenure these days anyway.

  2. You think it’s ‘very demoralizing’ to have your research funds be dependent on the department chair and your students having to TA, yet your salary is not affected at all??????? If this was my world I would be ecstatic! How about, not having a salary at all until your next grant comes in however long that is, that is even IF your institution or department allows you to stick around that long without stripping you of your title and position and kicking you to the curb.

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