Over at her blog, Prodigal Academic discusses an issue that may be every research lab's worst nightmare — equipment breakdown. "It is, in fact, something that keeps me up at night: that my really expensive workhorse instrument will break, effectively shutting my group down until I can scrape up the money to fix it," she says. What's more, Prodigal Academic adds, is that faulty equipment often does more than just stall progress — repair costs can severely damage a lab's budget, especially if there hasn't been any money set aside for the unexpected. But the way in which labs are typically funded — primarily by "project-centered" grants — doesn't leave much wiggle room for major equipment repairs, or worse, replacement. So for the average lab, Prodigal Academic says, "it is often not-cost effective or practical … to have the money to pay maintenance contracts." And while she says funds for "simple" repairs can often be drawn from a lab's supplies budget, for most groups, "there is no way to really save up for a rainy day, when that rainy day is $15k or more in one shot." Prodigal Academic suggests that "these days, with labs unable to support existing personnel, let alone save something on the side for repair costs," perhaps instrument-centered grant mechanisms ought to include separate funds specifically for emergency repairs.
Prepare for 'That Rainy Day'
Mar 30, 2011