Tendencies have been well documented by Ginsberg,
The Fall of the Faculty: The Rise of the All-Administrative University and Why it Matters
and by Washburn,
University, Inc.: The Corporate Corruption of Higher Education.
I recently had a Dean of Medicine tell me that “We have solved the M.D. tenure problem.” The bulk of physician salaries come from the clinical enterprise, and that affiliation can be terminated with 30-day notice. “Now we are trying to solve the Ph.D. problem.” By that, he was referring to how to terminate Ph.D. faculty who are tenured but have lost their government funding. Discovery of new knowledge and teaching are no longer enough unless they come with profit for the institution. The interim solution to the “Ph.D. problem” appears to be the use of Special Appointments, which are the probably better-paid equivalent of adjunct faculty appointments (not eligible for tenure). The long-term solution will be total elimination of tenure at medical schools (and maybe other universities). The final irony will be the socialization of medicine and physicians on government salaries. Creativity in basic medical research will wither.
This is a story of unintended consequences. In “the old days”, universities expected the faculty to teach, perform service, and to discover new knowledge (research). When the government decided to fund research in the public interest, and pay faculty salaries for the time spent on said research, administrators did simple math: two professors getting 50% of their salaries from the government frees up enough institutional money to hire a third professor. Two such professors provide enough money to hire yet another. Add in the indirect costs on grants (typically 50% or more) and the Ponzi effect should be obvious. This plan is dependent on continuous funding of the professors, which has been anything but continuous since the 70s. Hence, “the Ph.D. problem”.
As for funding, the NIH posted numbers for 2012 and 2013: https://nexus.od.nih.gov/all/2014/01/10/fy2013-by-the-numbers/ . Numbers from this summary were averaged and used in the table below.
Barrett claimed that it takes 3 months to a write grant in the life sciences. von Hippel and von Hippel determined that it takes 4 weeks to write a proposal in astronomy or psychology. Obviously principal investigators take care of other responsibilities in the 3 months claimed by Barrett, probably in line with the von Hippels' 4 weeks as total committed time to prepare the proposal. So I'll do the math using 4 weeks for an investigator to prepare a proposal.
|2012-13 avg||Investigator- years||Not funded Investigator- years||Guess Annual Salary||Salary effort spent writing all grants||Salary effort lost writing unfunded grants|
|The overall success rate for competing research project grants (RPGs)||0.17|
|R01-equivalent grant applications||28835||2218||80,000||$177,446,154|
|Success rates for R01-equivalent applications||0.18|
|R01 proposals not funded||23659||1820||80,000||$145,594,569|
|The number of R01-equivalent awards||5169||398||80,000|
|R21 grant applications.||13486||1037||80,000||$82,990,769|
|Success rates for the R21||0.14|
|R21 proposals not funded||11632||895||80,000||$71,579,538|
|The number of R21 awards||1852||142||80,000|
|The total number of research grant applications received by NIH||62269||4790|
|Research grants not R01 or R21||19948||1534||35,000||$53,704,808|
|Awards not R01 or R21||3431||264||35,000|
|Not R01 or R21 not funded||16517||1271||35,000||$44,467,581|
|Total salary lost writing grants per year||$314,141,731||$261,641,688|
Our institutions spend around $300 million/year in investigator salaries while we write proposals to NIH (R01, R21, and other), 82% of which result in zero return as unfunded proposals (estimate $260 million in lost salary) . The numbers may be larger if my guess for average salaries is low.