I am a Marie Curie early stage researcher in a H2020 funded project (early training network, for those aware of the terminology), that's spread between several universities in Europe (including where I am now, London /snark). I'm approaching the end of my contract.
This project is, according to the published figures, rather lavishly funded (€4 mil in total). Just in the "Research, Networking and Training Costs" there's approx €200k for three researchers for three years (that comes to 1800/mo per researcher!). This excludes salary costs, management costs, etc.
This project has been plagued from the beginning by a serious lack of transparency and mismanagement, which has been slowly revealed throughout the duration of the project.
- We, as researchers, were not consulted as to what training we need, and were "forced" to go to courses & workshops organised by the consortium partners, which half of the time were useless (completely off topic).
- Even if we didn't attend said workshops (out of desperation to get work done, in my case), the host university would still pay the organising partner a set "participation" fee.
- I was told there's no budget to go to conferences, even if I had a paper in. Some of us had to pay up front for our secondment related travel costs (at our industry partners).
- We were told secondments were mandatory 8 months, whereas actually they were maximum 8 months.
- My host university slotted me in at the wrong pay grade for two years (was being underpaid - this issue is sorted, but just goes to show). They're still using the wrong conversion rate, instead of the ECB rate (£0.7 for €1), but apparently that's going to get sorted at the end of the contract.
My conundrum is simple: I've just been told that my host university has overspent, and there's no more money for me to go to an important industry board meeting where I was invited due to the research I've been doing so far, and supposed to talk about it in front of a couple of important industry actors in my field.
I'm a bit fed up. I have never seen a single excel sheet of sorts on what the money has been spent so far, by whom and on what. It has been consistently denied to us. From my own book-keeping, I've spent, so far, somewhere in the range of 1/5th of my total budget.
I'm afraid to push too hard on my supervisors for details, as I still need to (write and) submit a dissertation with them, and maybe get a PhD degree - and they might easily get offended.
I also believe this should be "sorted out" at one point or the other. I've been previously working in practice (Architecture & Engineering) for 4 years where such behaviour would have spelled instant trouble and litigations. How would one report/flag serious concern/blow a whistle on such a project, in the rather sensitive British cultural context?
Disclaimer: I do realise I am in a very lucky position, and life can be much worse in academia & research than I'm having it... it's just that I might have a too developed sense of justice or need for clarity for my own good.