When you ask your chair/dean/Big Dog for something

When you ask, make sure you are organized. You have detail. You know what is flexible and what is not. Where you can bend and where if they say no, it won’t work

Example: Today George, a Research Asst. Prof (former Postdoc who just got R03 funding and is staying to produce more science and papers before looking for a job) wanted to talk about how to approach his chair and ask for some further $$ support. There is an additional set of experiments (not a huge time burden) that would bring a new technique into the department (something I know the chair wants). But this is not someone who is tenure-track and who will likely leave in a year or so (the R03 is a 3yr grant in this case).

What is important in this case? George needs to have 1) a generalized budget on what he is spending is R03 on; 2) a specific budget on what he wants; 3) a justification for asking for this money; 4) an absolute sense of what is and what is not necessary to do this project; 5) good knowledge of what the dept already has, whether it can be shared, and even have talked to folks about sharing. For example, he wants to ask for some specific surgical equipment. The department likely owns these, but he will need extensive access to them. Realistically, he is low animal on the totem pole and will have a hard time getting to use them. On the other hand, these are things that lots of people in his department use, and the dept head might be receptive to having a second set (things like surgical scope, and glass bead sterilizer). Keep in mind stuff like this bought by the department will stay with the dept when George leaves.

George’s narrative needs to run like this: My grant is to do X and Y. But with a little extra effort and supplies/equipment, we could also do Z. [note: George knows that there are other folks in the dept who want to do Z, and bringing the techniques in is a Good Thing]. Here is a list of what is on my grant (printed out sheet for chair), and here is a list of what I think I need (another printed sheet). I would need to get items 1-5 in this fiscal year, so that I can work on getting it set up, but if items 6-9 have to wait till next fiscal year, that would be OK, too. I am happy to train others in doing this, and leave everything working when I leave. [Note: George has already discussed taking the one extremely expensive rig that he bought on the R03 when he goes.]

One likely outcome is the following:

Chair: This is great George, for you and for department. I am always … blah blah blah. However, you want $20K and I’ve only got $12K. Can you show me how you could do this with only $12K.

Now , the chair may be bluffing, or not. But if George gets a stick up his back and says its all or nothing, the chair will likely say something like “well, thats a shame”. George needs to know how to talk about his list and where it can be cut. Maybe he can bargin with the chair, and maybe not. That’s a hard call.

But if you don’t ask, you won’t get anything.

PS… this is for faculty who report to the chair. If you are in someone else’s lab and you go over the head of your boss to talk to the chair, or over the head of your chair to talk to the dean, you are gambling. Many would get really irritated with you. If you are a postdoc and you go talk to the chair without talking to your mentor, you will end up screwed. No matter how nice your mentor is.


2 thoughts on “When you ask your chair/dean/Big Dog for something

  1. Or you could just put him on the TT and go from there…….

    R03s are not easy to get and he obviously has the chops to get such a grant. You would think the chair might consider giving him some proper support. That’s the way I look at it anyway.

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