Monday, April 11, 2005

Grant writing

My two time-sucking committees have finally relaxed a bit; I won't have another major commitment due to them until late next week. Unfortunately, this gives me the perfect bit of time to finish working on an NSF grant that I and a few other science faculty are applying for. It's due in a few weeks and, of course, I volunteered to coordinate the application process.

First, a little background. Faculty at community colleges are not expected to do research; all of our time is expected to be devoted to teaching and other service activities (*cough* committees *cough*). There is no research component involved in obtaining tenure at most community colleges. But, faculty are free to apply for grants if we want, and if we want to have any kind of research program, or involve students in research, we need to get grants to fund it. Since I've got a whole heap of students who are interested in doing some field research, and my campus has a neat opportunity to carry out the research, it makes sense to apply for the grant.

This is only a relatively small grant (<$30,000; the primary component is funding planning for a larger grant we'll apply for next year, if all goes well), but it's a big time commitment nonetheless. It's my understanding that most universities have staff members dedicated to helping faculty apply for grants; my college has nobody to help, and I'm not even sure in which decade the last NSF grant was awarded to our biology department. Thus, I got to spend today wading through such fun documents as the NSF Grant Proposal Guide, the FastLane instructions, and Circular A-21.

Even simple things like getting access to NSF's FastLane application system are harder than they should be. To get a FastLane account, I need to contact the "Authorized Organizational Representative" at my campus; unfortunately, said "Authorized Organizational Representative" no longer works here. I also have no idea if my campus has filed all the various institutional paperwork required by the NSF.

To give you an idea of how rarely we apply for grants like this, the president of my college is personally assisting me with the application. It's exciting that the president is gung-ho about the grant, but it's odd to be getting personal e-mails from him, and I'm definitely not used to scheduling lunch meetings with him.

Some day, maybe, I'll actually get back to spending my time on teaching ...

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