Debbie Knight

Hanging up the lab coat

In observation on February 28, 2013 at 9:30 am

lonely lab coat 1Today,  my lab neighbor and office mate officially hangs up his lab coat for the last time as he retires from the university.

What this means is he has put in an equivalent of 30 years of service, so he can begin drawing retirement benefits from the public employee’s retirement fund.

But what it doesn’t mean is that he will completely retire from the workforce. It’s highly likely he will find another job elsewhere (and by “elsewhere,” I mean “not in the research lab”).

He will reinvent himself. Try something new. And I wish him well.

But I must admit I’m a little jealous especially since I have a considerable ways to go before I could do the same.

But more importantly, he’s getting out of research just as things are about to get tougher. Way tougher.

As sequestration looms large over the nation, its impact may mean a 5.1 percent cut in National Institutes of Health (NIH)  funding ($1.5 billion of the total).

And according to an announcement made by the NIH, it will likely “reduce the final (fiscal year) 2013 funding levels of non-competing continuation grants and expects to make fewer competing awards to  allow the agency to meet the available budget allocation.” [Translation: funding of existing grants may be reduced and fewer new grants will be awarded]

So, it will be even harder to get grant funding than it already is (and believe me, it’s already tough!).

But it also means that even grants already awarded may suffer reductions in the actual paylines.

I know one researcher who was only given half of this year’s award — the other half held back in case the governmental budget cuts were as severe as predicted. Now, she may not get the other half. This means she won’t be able to do much of the research she proposed to do in the grant that was funded. This means that she may have to let one of her employees go. This may negatively impact her chances of future funding. And I won’t even mention the advances in skin cancer research she might have made.

Of course that could be said of all the possible scientific advances which could be slowed significantly by these budgetary cuts.

It’s a bad time to be in research and to be dependent on government funding for your livelihood. And it sounds like we will have to tighten an already severely restrained belt.

So, Pete, your timing is impeccable! I wish you well in your future endeavors. And don’t forget about those of us still in the research trenches, frantically panning for that research “gold!” 🙂


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