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The Power of Planning Ahead

Because he has found that there were some things he wishes he had asked for — and others he's glad to have had the foresight to request — Prof-like Substance has listed, in order of priority, what a non-medical biological scientist should request when negotiating a start-up package at a new institution. "It's a daunting process trying to figure out everything you will need to get going, but it can also be a lot of fun," Prof-life writes. When it comes to requesting equipment, "everything from major equipment to chemicals to the stupid little spatulas you use to weigh those chemicals out with needs to be thought of," he says. Should a new hire's administrative staff suggest sharing a particular instrument with another PI, "get it in writing," Prof-like says. Consumables come next — budget funds in this category for "at least three years," but "four if you can get it," Prof-like suggests. Since a lab's progress depends just as much — if not more — on the people in it than the products, new hires should ask for salaried technicians and postdocs. "In this funding climate, best to ask for one more year [of staff salary] than you think you will need," he adds. A new PI should also plan for expenditures on external services, such as sample- and data-processing. Should lab renovations be promised in, Prof-like again stresses the importance of securing "a time frame in writing." Time is a cost to negotiate, too — it's important for a new hire to consider how much of it will be dedicated to teaching and travel. Finally, he says, it's critical to not overlook computers and software. "A lot of it can be pricey. … And that's before you get to specialized proprietary software," Prof-like adds.

In a comment to this post, Han Aiwen adds: "A really good suggestion I was given was to get $5,000 in a separate account for little things — books, consumables you didn't think of, and other such things. That means you don't have to go to the dean … every time you buy a book. I got a lot more money out of my PUI than I expected, and am really happy I asked for so much."

The Scan

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