It’s been four months now since I’ve left NSF and returned to my university. During that time, I’ve gotten my first grant, taught two courses and given sundry talks around the state all towards the notion that, in life science, for Virginia, the whole is more than the sum of the parts. In our Commonwealth, even with a wealth of research university talent, too often we compete with each other for the crumbs rather than going after the big prizes that are out there.
What do I mean by the crumbs? Well, at the university level, these are the sponsored research opportunities that would be meaningful and significant at the individual PI level, but that are not a good return on investment (of time and energy) on the part of the institution as a whole, to say nothing of the state.
Contrast that to what I saw routinely during my time at NSF—where institutions within a state would coalesce around competitions for major center awards (and larger)—each institution supporting her sisters in a complementary style. This type of energy was visible, not only for the usual suspects like California or Massachusetts, but also for states that one might not expect.
I’ll be writing more about this subject matter in future blog entries….