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When Grant Writing Takes Over

Have you ever started a simple task — say changing a light bulb — only to find yourself tackling a list of seemingly never-ending projects — painting a room, fixing a door, cleaning the windows etc.? This is a phenomenon known as "scope creep," says Benchfly's Alan Marnett, where a defined set of tasks slowly starts to expand until it becomes an almost unmanageable project. In the lab, PIs are particularly vulnerable to scope creep. "A PI could just as well be described as an 'academic entrepreneur', since running a lab is much like managing a company," Marnett says. "PIs must raise money to fund operations, manage group members and projects, set the goals and directions of the lab, market their research to attract new employees … In fact, one might argue that a PI's job description has already suffered significant scope creep over the years." But as the global economy continues to struggle, and with funding lines under 10 percent at most agencies, PIs are also experiencing what might be termed "grant creep," Marnett adds, where the time spent writing grants has increased over the years to a point where it now takes the place of other responsibilities. It's understandable, as grants are necessary for labs to do research, but what, Marnett asks, is the ideal amount of time a PI should spend writing grants? In a Benchfly poll, 38 percent of respondents say PIs should spend about 30 percent of their time writing grants, while 25 percent say they should spend 20 percent on the task.

Daily Scan wants to know, how much time do you spend writing grants, and does it interfere with other tasks?