Stimulus Money and Academia

February 26, 2010 by  
Filed under Economics

Our local paper published a long piece today about use of our tax dollars. The article is entitled “VU puts stimulus funds to work.” The writer and Vanderbilt University are boasting about Vanderbilt having snagged $87 million in stimulus dollars to fund 194 difference academic research grants. Because they were spending my money, I read the entire article to learn how the money was being used. I was thrilled to discover, as one example, that someone over there is being stimulated to investigate the formation of nerve cells in the bladder.

What I didn’t find anywhere in the article was a report of a single new job being created from the expenditure of our $87 million. I thought jobs were the point. Could they have least reported the hiring of a new lab tech or two?

I am all for scientific research. But this looks more like tax dollars being distributed just to give university academics something to justify their own existence. That’s not addressing the root cause of our present recession.

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14 Responses to “Stimulus Money and Academia”
  1. mark says:

    “I am all for scientific research. But this looks more like tax dollars being distributed just to give university academics something to justify their own existence.”

    These research grants pay salaries for graduate students and university staff, pay tuition for the students, educate the next generation of scientists, and generate scientific data that will lead to new technologies and discovery.

    I think that is more than simply justifying the existence of academics, don’t you?

    • Mark – I get all that but these are stimulus dollars, not routine NSF grants and the like. STIMULUS DOLLARS. In this case, not a word from the university about a single new grad student, staff member, lab tech, janitor, or any other new job being stimulated by this money. So, no, I don’t think this money is being used for anything stimulative. It’s only to serve the self-interests of the academics.

  2. TMN says:

    You really think that millions of dollars can flow into an institution, fund specific, explicitly defined work, and NOT create jobs? What do you suppose all the people working on this project would have done with the the rest of the year if not this?

    • TMN – Apparently it can because the only mention of new jobs was “hope.” I think these professors should teach and otherwise work on university money, not mine. I already attended college and grad school – all without any government or university support. I don’t want to send them any more of my stimulus dollars if no jobs are created.

      • TMN says:

        So even if they documented the creation of jobs, you would still be bitching. Gotcha.

        By the way, the claim that you attended college “without any government support” is ludicrous. Nearly all universities rely heavily on government subsidies and research contracts for their funding.

        You never actually answered the question, anyway. What do you suppose these people would be doing with their time if they didn’t have research funded by stimulus money? I’m guessing either unemployed, or working in another job outside the university, and either way means someone is unemployed — either it’s them, or it’s the person who filled that other job when this person got the research grant.

  3. MasterPo says:

    How’s that hope and change working for you? 😀

  4. mark says:

    I agree with TMN. There is no way all that money going to a department is not going to create jobs.

    I agree with you, Mr. TML, that the article was poorly written without that information. However, I don’t think that omission means that none were created.

  5. MasterPo says:

    TMN – Exactly how many “jobs” do you think that much $$$ will create at a University??

    Are they going to hire a couple of hundred currently-out-of-work researchers? Lab assistants? Build a new research building??

    They will probably purchase some new lab equipment and supplies. I’ll grant that.

    But who do you think is going to get the lion’s share of that $$$? It will be CURRENT researchers who will apply for the grant $$$ from the school when their research is done. Parhaps a few hundred grad students will also get min-wage research assistant jobs too who otherwise would have to put off their research or go else where.

    Let’s say the school spends $7 million on new equipment etc. for the research work. Of the remaining $80 million if 500 new positions are created that’s a cost of $160,000 per job!!!!!!

    How efficient is that??

    ps- How long do you think the research will go? 5 years at best for most (which makes the pay only $32,000 per year – not very good IMO). What then?? Spend another $160,000 per person?!?!

    (Mark – Was that good enough for you? Keep that hope and change comming!!)

    • mark says:

      First, I assume this is the actual article that Mr. TML was referring to:

      Second, based upon your comments, I assume that neither MasterPo or Mr. TML went to graduate school in the sciences. You don’t seem to understand how grants impact students, faculty and staff.

      Generally, if a professor or group of professors wins a grant, their proposal specifically spelled out exactly what they were going to do with the money, how many graduate students will be supported by the grant, what major equipment/instruments will be purchased, etc. As a result, the funding of a grant typically creates new, open positions for graduate students that previously did not exist (i.e., new jobs).

      I don’t know how many jobs will be created from this funding. I do know that the $3 million grant from the National Science Foundation that paid for my graduate education supported multiple professors, about 10-12 graduate students and provided research experience to 5-10 undergraduate students. I would guess that at least several hundred graduate students will be supported by this funding at much better than minimum wage. In the end, you have highly educated scientists that graduate, get good-paying jobs, pay taxes and contribute to our national economy and global competitiveness for decades to come. Again, that does not include the useful information that is generated, the support jobs at the university that are at least partially funded, the instruments that were purchased (thus, stimulating the economy) and will remain at the university for future research, etc.

      Listen, I am not arguing that this is necessarily the best way to stimulate the economy and bring us out of the recession. However, I do think it is ridiculous to state that these grants are “just to give university academics something to justify their own existence.”

      MasterPo: Yes, some coherent thought about the subject we are discussing is much better than your mindless, empty slogans that add nothing to the conversation.

  6. Rick Beagle says:

    Then write your congressman and tell him to take that money back. But before you bust out your pens please note that no one here did any research on VU’s proposal. Every single comment herein is speculation. People frothing up at the mouth without so much as a basic review of the merits of the proposal is tantamount to idiocy.

    Besides, if you don’t like how the “job creation thing” is going, submit your own proposals. Take some ownership of the problem.

    Rick Beagle

  7. MasterPo says:

    Rick – CUT MY TAXES!!!!!! And I’ll show you economic stimulation!!!

    Mark – I did go to grad school and grad students (post-grad usually actually) get paid diddly-squat to help a prof with research. They do it for the love of the field and to get their degrees. Good that a foundation paid for you (or I could say you were a leech but I won’t go that far 😉 ). But universirty research is NOT about giving free education to grad students. Neither should the grants.

    Mark, you SHOULD argue that it is or isn’t the BEST way! With that kind of money don’t you think government should get the best bang for the buck?!

    Heaven help us when Obamacare passes!!

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