Friday, November 20, 2009

Gilder Grantsmanship

(fm the BC thread "The CRU Hack")

The American Museum of Natural History in NY has started it's own PhD program in Bio-Diversity at the Richard Gilder Graduate School. Going over their web site I surfed over to the curriculum and noticed that in the 4 year program every student will take a 3 credit course during their first year on grant writing and proposals. From the catalog,
RGGS502 Grantsmanship, Ethics, and Communication
Credits: 3 This course will be offered in a workshop format and focused on how scientists operate within the broader range of society.
• Section 1—Grantsmanship: preparing grants, identifying granting agencies, developing and maintaining grant budgets, and practical development of a grant application (e.g., Predoctoral Fellowship or Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant).
• Section 2—Ethical issues in science, including scientific misconduct, interpersonal responsibilities, institutional responsibilities, mentoring, peer review of papers and grants, serving on panels and boards, and use of animals in research.
• Section 3—Communication: writing quality papers, targeting papers to particular journals, crafting press releases, dealing with the media, and giving high-quality presentations.
Now I have no doubt that this is a terrific school and the training will be top notch and these are serious and ethical people who care about getting things right. However about a year ago I saw an assemblage of eminent worthies on Charlie Rose to assure everyone the debate was over and a or the top person from the AMNH was among them.

Second while this is a very real part of every research scientists life it is sad that they have to devote a considerable chunk of their professional training to a course on how to get the money. Why isn't there a system within the academic culture for training senior faculty on the duties of how to take suction on donors and the Mentoring process, and training the juniors on how to write and the ethics involved, that would have covered these topics in a different setting? If there was it seems to have deteriorated. It is good that the last two topics in the syllabus are being addressed. What worries is that the first topic is conflated with them and will overwhelm the curriculum. In the military there is a separate officer field, the Medical Service Corps, that does the administration and paperwork for the Physicians. That is harder to do in academia where peer review is everything in ascertaining the merit of work done or proposed.

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