So my Fearless Leader sent a rather bizarre email to the entire lab today. It is a Saturday, mind you, and I was still in a pretty good mood- yesterday was decent enough not to wreck it.
This email details the math of how she plans to handle the 20% cut from NIH. Apparently it kicks in as each grant goes into the new funding cycle. I have to give her credit that her grants are staggered by a few months, and she has several, so it won't hit us all at once.
I don't know why I say us. I'm still kind of a satellite member of her lab, but everyone has been really nice to me lately and treating me like I'm actually part of the group.
Anyway, I'm paraphrasing, but the math basically goes like this:
people + stuff = 100% of lab costs
since 100 - 20 =80%, and she doesn't want to cut any people, she has to cut stuff.
Ok, fine. But here's my perception of how the stuff breaks down:
animal costs ($$$)
high-throughput array costs ($$$)
everything else ($)
But her email doesn't distinguish, really, between these things. Granted, I'm using neither animals nor arrays right now, so perhaps she sent personalized budget emails to those people who are using the more expensive systems in the lab??? I certainly hope so.
Isn't it kind of a given that when going gets tough, you find the one thing that costs the most and cut that first? I guess if it were up to me, I'd think hard about getting rid of a postdoc, student, or technician, but in this lab, I don't know whom I would want to get rid of. There is no obvious choice.
Anyway my impression is that she wants people to learn how to share. As I mentioned before, of late there has been a lot of hoarding going on, due inefficient ordering of common lab stocks.
So I will be amused if we actually see any changes in behavior whatsoever, since we actually have a pretty decent, although very clueless bunch of people in our lab. I had a chat the other day with a grad student about the cost of hemacytometers. She seemed to think they were cheap (~$20-30 each). In reality, they each cost ~$90-200 each, depending on where you get them. And our lab has a habit of breaking the matching coverslips at an alarming rate.
This is the kind of thing I learned in high school. The first time I learned to use each piece of equipment, I was told precisely how much I would owe the lab if I broke it.
I'm astounded that kids are coming up through the system without learning the cost of doing research. Sure, I've met people who came from insanely rich labs before, and I wouldn't expect them to have ever ordered anything themselves.
But. Come on, people. If you're not teaching your students the value of your tools, it's your own fault when your lab goes broke. But it's especially sad for those of us who have been trying to plan our experiments so we never waste a drop of anything, to see so much carelessness compromising our work.