Greed – it’s catching

While the discussion over greed in financial institutions rages on – it might be worth it for grantmakers and grantseekers to take some time for introspection about our own tendency to be “greedy.”
For funders it often manifests as wanting too much for too little. In return for a relatively small investment we often want a return of measurable, tangible, meaningful progress on problems that have dogged mankind for centuries.
For grantseekers is manifests as promising alot for a little. I am both amused and annoyed when I read the grandiose claims in a proposal and then flip to the budget. Who knew that the reason we haven’t cured homelessness, cancer, or international warfare was the lack of 2 postdocs and a laptop?
Funders can improve the situation by cleaning up our rhetoric – everything does not have to be novel, innovative, or ground-breaking. Sometimes validating the findings of others, revisiting questions where the common wisdom is actually rather shakily supported, or filling in the small gaps of our knowledge so we have a more seamless and complete understanding of something is enough.
For propspective grantees it might mean admiting that others are working on this same question (LOTS of others) but that your contribution will help – and the postdocs will get a valuable learning exeprience about how to shape and pursue a question – and a new laptop!
We can be less greedy in our expectations and in our promises – and maybe incrementally create a more honest, transparent, authentic style of communication.